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As oppressive heat continues to envelop Virginia, motorists are reminded of the real dangers of leaving children, the elderly, pets or any living being that cannot help itself unattended in a car for any amount of time.
“Think of your car just like your kitchen oven, where temperatures rise very quickly,” said Martha Mitchell Meade of the American Automobile Association.
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that temperatures inside of a car can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes and to 125 degrees in six to eight minutes.
“With temperatures rising at the rate of about 20 degrees every three minutes, it is easy to see how a seemingly quick stop can very quickly turn disastrous.”
On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being left inside motor vehicles.
“It is critical that motorists are uncompromising on this issue and simply make a habit of never taking any chances by leaving children or others in hot cars. A minute or two can be deadly and can also easily turn into five to 10 minutes if you run into a friend or there is a line at the check-out,” Neade said.
NHTSA offers the following tips for motorists:
• On an 80-degree day after just 20 minutes, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 109 degrees. At a core body temperature of 107 degrees, a child’s brain cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.
• Children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness.
• Children’s bodies absorb more heat on a hot day than an adult and are also less able to lower their body heat by sweating, causing the body temperature to rise rapidly.
• When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature may increase three to five times as fast as an adult’s. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.
• Vehicles heat up quickly, even with a window rolled down a couple of inches. If outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes.
• Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the door and walking away.
• Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as: writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle; placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle.
• Symptoms of heatstroke vary but may include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, being grouchy or acting strangely.
• If you see a child or pet alone in a hot vehicle, call police. If a person is in distress due to heat, call 911 and get them out as quickly as possible.