FEELING THE HEAT: AAA, OHS and DSP Remind Drivers of Heat-Related Dangers

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Be mindful of temperatures outside AND inside the car.

As Delaware prepares for another heat wave of summer, AAA, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, and Delaware State Police are 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 in 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.

“Even at a temperature of just 70 degrees, a vehicle’s inside temperature can soar in a short period of time,” says Ken Grant, 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.”

“Parents need to remember to talk to their kids about not playing in the car while it is parked, unlocked. Children can suffer from heatstroke by accidentally locking themselves in a car when they are playing. If you see a child stuck in a car, call 911. It can happen to anyone, parents, caregivers, etc. It doesn’t mean you’re a “bad” parent, but take the appropriate steps to ensure you are never in this situation. It never hurts to look before you lock your car, and lock your car before you leave,” says Sarah Cattie, Child Passenger Safety Program Manager, Delaware Office of Highway Safety.

“When there is excessively hot weather and record high temperatures are reported causing a heatwave there is also great concern for the safety of those who are left in an unattended vehicle. The heat can create a dangerous situation and the increased potential for heat illnesses. It is so important to note your car can reach dangerous temperatures quickly during a scorching hot day. The Delaware State Police issues a heat advisory to avoid endangering the life of anyone especially a child or pet left in a vehicle. Please drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left in a vehicle during hot temperatures as the interior of your car can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes,” says Sergeant Richard Bratz, Delaware State Police Spokesperson. “Remember if you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately!”

“Never be too proud to check your backseat. Your children’s lives literally depend on it,” says Aubrey Klick, Fitting Station Coordinator, Delaware Office of Highway Safety.

Scary Statistics
– In 2018, vehicle heatstroke claimed the lives of 52 children, up 21% 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
– 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)
– At 104-degrees internal organs start to shut down

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.

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.