WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, July 17, 2019) –– As the Washington metro area copes with, make that suffers from, the third heat wave of the summer, AAA is reminding motorists to be mindful that heat not only takes a toll on vehicles, but it can also take the life of a child or a pet left unattended inside a vehicle. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14, with an average of 38 fatalities per year since 1998. AAA is urging drivers, parents and caregivers to “look before you lock,” and to protect yourself and others, including children, the elderly, and persons with health-related concerns, from vehicular heat stroke, heat illnesses, and even death.
These are the heat dome days. “The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate internal temperature,” warns the National Weather Service. It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child inside. As summer temperatures rise more kids are at risk. In the U.S., twelve children under the age of five have died in hot cars since Memorial Day and 21 total children since the beginning of the year, according to data from NoHeatStroke.org. In fact, vehicular heat stroke claimed the lives of 52 children in 2018, the most in 20 years. Surprisingly, half of these deaths occurred on days when temperatures were below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Even at a temperature of just 70 degrees, a vehicle’s inside temperature can soar in a short period of time,” said James Moore, Manager, AAA Car Care Center. “As the weather forecast calls for a heat index over 100 degrees for the next few days the risk is even greater for exposure to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.”
Heatwave Risk Factors
- In 2018, vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of a record 52 children, up 21 percent from 2017 (43 deaths).
- To date, 21 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2019.
- Since 1998, there have been 816 heatstroke-related deaths of children.
- A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body.
- A child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day.
- On a 95-degree day, a car can heat up to over 180-degrees.
- At 104 degrees, internal organs start to shut down.
- The steering wheel can reach 159 degrees (temperature for cooking medium rare meat).
- The seats can reach 162 degrees (temperature for cooking ground beef).
- The dash can reach 181 degrees (temperature for cooking poultry).
Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat for children before you leave and lock the car. Parents and caregivers think this could never happen to them – they could never forget their child in the backseat of a car. However, 100 percent of these deaths can be avoided. In our fast-paced, sleep-deprived world, this tragic situation happens repeatedly. If you have to put a sticky note on your dashboard, an alarm on your phone, or a stuffed animal in the front seat to remember to take a child out of the car, do it.
AAA Mid-Atlantic Urges Motorists To ACT:
- A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute.
- C—Create electronic reminders or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car - for example, a cell phone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes. Always lock your car and never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
- T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1 if you notice a child unattended in a car.
Everyone must take steps to stay safe “during the dangerous heatwave.” It is all about the heat, humidity, heat index and your health and well-being. “People living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas”, warns the American Red Cross. people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas.people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas.Meteorologically, a heat wave is described “as three or more days in a row with high temperatures at or above 90° Fahrenheit.” However, a “heat dome” is a weather phenomenon that traps hot air underneath its high pressure system. It acts like “an atmospheric lid, preventing hot air from escaping.”
“During a heat wave drivers should carry a minimum of five bottles of water for each person in the vehicle,” said Bruce Jenkins, Manager, Roadside Assistance, AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Extreme heat can cause serious problems for drivers, their passengers, and for the vehicles they drive. Children and elderly passengers are particularly susceptible to extreme temperatures. So use extra precautions. Cracking the window does not help. It is a matter of life or death. ‘Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperatures reaches 104° F or higher.’ Heat can be a real danger even after the sun goes down.”
Impact of Extreme Heat on Vehicles
Extreme heat exacts a toll on vehicles, especially over an extended period. AAA recommends motorists make sure their vehicles are prepared for the summer months. The season’s first two heat waves, spanning 11 days including the Independence Day holiday, saw temperatures and calls to AAA Mid-Atlantic soar.
Emergency roadside assistance crews dispatched from the AAA switchboard responded to nearly 40,000 member calls for assistance in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia from Wednesday, June 26 through Monday, July 8. Of those calls for roadside assistance, 38 percent were for dead car batteries and flat tires that had succumbed to the extreme heat. For God’s sake, as the heat wave continues, AAA Mid-Atlantic also reminds motorists to make sure their vehicle is stocked with an emergency road kit
Preventive Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips
- Batteries - Heat kills batteries. Make sure you have a strong battery that is up to the challenge by having your battery tested.
- Tires - Keep your tires at normal pressure. Soft tires generate heat, which can lead to a blowout.
- Fluids - Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, you can be seriously scalded.
- Coolant - Motorists should have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is typically necessary every two to five years.
AAA Mid-Atlantic offers free car battery and tire pressure checks to ensure motorists’ vehicles are road ready for the remainder of summer. While appointments in advance are preferred, walk-ins will be accepted based on availability. Go to https://midatlantic.aaa.com/car-care to find the location nearest you.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and nearly 79,000 members in the District of Columbia. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit http://aaa.com