This year, the Valley has been experiencing a relentless and record-breaking heat wave due to a lingering high pressure system hanging over the West. With the summer still in full swing, warnings are being issued about the dangers of leaving children and pets in hot cars for any length of time.
Arizona is typically one of the hottest places on earth from June to September, and according to the Arizona Department of Health services, nearly 800 people are admitted to hospitals each year because of heat-related circumstances. As an extra precaution, police are pleading with residents not to leave children and pets in cars as the mercury soars during this extreme heat.
According to www.ggweather.com, there have been no reported deaths due to children being left in cars so far this year in Arizona. However, there have been at least 24 deaths of children unattended in hot vehicles reported in other parts of the United States, so the problem warrants public awareness and life-saving reminders.
According to experts, vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly and AAA Arizona is working to make sure that people are aware of the dangers of leaving their children in cars.
“Never leave your child unsupervised in a vehicle, even for a minute,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “Temperatures inside a car, even on a mild and sunny day, can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Children especially are susceptible to heatstroke, because their bodies can heat up five times faster than adults.”
“Beat the heat, check the backseat,” is posted on www.ggweather.com, a website by the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. Other good tips to remind parents and daycare providers about children in backseats include keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver, or placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
It is not only children who are in danger of the heat. Pets are also at risk when left in cars on hot days.
“If more people knew the danger of leaving their pets in their parked car, they wouldn’t do it,” said Kim Salerno, president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. “Pets are very susceptible to overheating as they are much less efficient at cooling themselves than people.”
Everyone needs to work together to prevent children and pets from overheating in unattended vehicles. Call 911 if you believe anyone is in danger, and make it part of your routine to look before you leave your vehicle.
“With today’s busy schedules, people have a lot on their minds,” Gorman said. “Take care of the important things first, so a slip of the mind doesn’t become a tragedy.”
For more information on public and traffic safety, visit http://www.autoclubmo.aaa.com. For information on pet-friendly travel, visit http://tripswithpets.com. For statistics and other heat-related issues, including vehicle heating dynamics, visit www.ggweather.com.
• Jeremy Bush is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.