Jana Tidwell
Public Relations Manager, PA
O: (302) 299-4426
C: (302) 353-6563
jtidwell@aaamidatlantic.com

Kathleen Zinszer
Sr. Public Aff. Specialist, PA/DE
O: (302) 299-4168
C: (610) 291-7312
KZinszer@aaamidatlantic.com

FEELING THE HEAT: AAA Reminds Drivers of Heat-Related Dangers Ahead of Summer’s Third Heat Wave

NEW Pennsylvania law protects Good Samaritans who rescue children locked in hot cars;
be mindful of temperatures outside AND inside the car. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA (July 17, 2019) As the Delaware Valley prepares for the third heat wave of 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. 

Heat stroke 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.  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 – ten children in the U.S. under the age of five have died in hot cars since Memorial Day, 20 since the beginning of the year.  What may be surprising to know is half of these deaths occurred on days when temperatures were below 90 degrees. 

New Pennsylvania Law – Kids in Hot Cars

This week (Monday) a new law went into effect in Pennsylvania to protect children in hot cars.  Under the new law, Good Samaritans are protected from liability for damages if they believe a child is in imminent danger, providing that they have made a good faith effort to contact the vehicle owner and emergency responders, and they use no more force than necessary.

“Even at a temperature of just 70 degrees, a vehicle’s inside temperature can soar in a short period of time,” says Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “As our forecast brings us highs over 90 degrees for the next few days, the danger is even greater for cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Pennsylvania’s new Good Samaritan law to protect children in hot cars, and last year’s law for pets trapped in hot cars, will help reverse the alarming upward trend of hot car fatalities.”

Scary Statistics

  • In 2018, vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of a record 52 children, up 21 percent from 2017 (43 deaths).
  • To date, 20 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2019.
  • Since 1998, there have been 815 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)

Parents and caregivers think this could never happen to them – they could never forget their child in the backseat of a car. However, in our fast-paced, sleep-deprived world, this tragic situation happens repeatedly.  Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat for children before you leave and lock the car. 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. 

Pets Trapped in Hot Cars

Last fall, a new Pennsylvania law went into effect to protect pets locked in hot cars, giving police officers and first responders the authority to enter a vehicle and retrieve a cat or dog that is in immediate distress.  If anyone sees a dog or cat in a vehicle that appears to be in distress contact local authorities. 

Heat Stress and Vehicles

Extreme heat exacts a toll on vehicles, especially over an extended period of time.  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. AAA Mid-Atlantic roadside assistance crews responded to more than 17,000 member calls for assistance in the Philadelphia 5-county area.  Of those calls for roadside assistance, more than 40 percent were for dead car batteries and flat tires that had succumb to the extreme heat. 

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 advanced appointments are preferred, walk-ins will be accepted based on availability. 

As the summer travel season continues, AAA Mid-Atlantic also reminds motorists to make sure their vehicle is stocked with an emergency road kit. For safety’s sake, every driver should have a well-stocked emergency kit that includes a cell phone and car charger; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

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Mailing Address:
7777 Brewster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19159

AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  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 www.AAA.com.

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