AAA: Children and Pets in Vehicles at Risk During Extreme Heat

When cars heat up, every minute counts

As the current heat wave continues and temperatures near 100 degrees are predicted through the end of the week, AAA East Central is reminding motorists about the dangers of leaving children and pets in a hot car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 900 children have died of heat stroke in the last 25 years after being left or trapped in a vehicle. In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a vehicle can heat up by 20 degrees and become deadly.

“A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s and when a child is left in a hot vehicle, the situation could become life-threatening very quickly,” says Lynda Lambert, media spokesperson and safety advisor, AAA East Central. “As parents, caregivers and bystanders, we all play a role in making sure children and animals are protected from these dangerous conditions.”

AAA research shows that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for kids 14 and younger. In 90-degree weather, the inside of a vehicle, in direct sunlight, can exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on a mild, sunny day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes. More than half of heatstroke deaths occur when a distracted caregiver forgets about a quiet child in the vehicle. A quarter of vehicle heatstroke deaths occur when a child crawls inside an unlocked vehicle and becomes trapped.

AAA East Central 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 like a cell phone, purse, or briefcase that will be needed when exiting the car.  Always lock vehicles and never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
  • T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1- if a child or pet is found unattended in a car.

When it comes to heatstroke, animals are also at risk. Leaving them in a vehicle while running errands, taking a break at a rest stop during a road trip or for any other reason, can have deadly consequences. Animals left in hot cars can face irreversible organ damage, heat stroke, brain damage and, in extreme cases, death.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs and cats can include:

  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Reddened gums and tongue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated movement

Animals are also at a more severe rate of risk when they have factors like age (very young, very old), obesity, poor heart/lung conditioning, are a short-nosed, flat-faced breed, or have a thick hair coat.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 72 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


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