Thursday, July 8, 2010

Car safety in hot weather: what every parent and pet owner should know

It takes seconds for a "lock-in" to occur and minutes for your car to become an oven, warns BCAA

BURNABY, BC, July 8 /CNW/ - An incident in the early July heat in Laval, Quebec, serves as stern warning about the dangers of leaving children or pets unattended in a car. According to news reports, a Laval mother was buckling her 15-month old son into his car seat while the child played with her car keys. After taking the keys away and tossing them in the front seat, the mother shut the car doors, unaware that the child had managed to lock the doors while playing with the keys. Although the child was rescued unharmed, the wait for rescuers felt like a lifetime to the mother who watched helplessly as the temperature inside the car climbed.

Scenes like this occur frequently throughout B.C. during the summer months, says the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), which reminds parents, care givers, pet owners and other motorists to be aware of the dangers of accidentally locking or leaving children or pets in cars.

Each year, BCAA Road Assist service rescues close to 300 children and pets from locked cars.

And similar to the Laval lock-in incident, many of the 'accidental lock-in' calls attended by BCAA technicians occur while children playing with keys lock themselves inside the vehicle, or when drivers and their passengers become distracted while getting in and out of their vehicle. Car doors can close unexpectedly, locking young children or a pet in the car along with the car keys.

"During warm sunny weather, the inside of a car can reach extremely high temperatures in a matter of minutes - even if it's parked in the shade," explains Dave Chapman, BCAA's manager for fleet operations. "It gets even worse if the car is sitting directly under the sun. The car acts like a magnifying glass and creates intense interior heat. Within a matter of minutes, your car becomes a four-door furnace."

To avoid any chance that a child or family pet will be harmed by the heat of a car this summer, BCAA encourages parents, caregivers and pet owners to play it safe and take the following precautions:

- Never leave a child or pet alone in a car, even with the windows down or air conditioner on.

- Teach children not to play in cars and keep car keys out of reach and sight.

- Keep your vehicle locked at all times - even at home in the garage or driveway. This will help prevent toddlers from crawling into a car and accidentally locking themselves inside.

- When running errands, leave children with a responsible adult at home, or travel with a responsible passenger who can stay with children or pets while you complete your tasks.

- Keep your pets at home during hot summer days unless you need to take them to the veterinarian office, doggie day camp, or grooming salon.

- If you drive a pickup truck, don't leave dogs in the truck bed. The heat can burn their feet.

- Before buckling children in the car, check to make sure surfaces such as seat belt buckles aren't overly hot as they could burn a child's sensitive skin.

- If a child or pet is locked inside a vehicle, call 9-1-1 in an extreme emergency.

Facts about heat stress from enclosed cars:

- On a mild summer day, the temperature inside a parked car can rise to more then 50 degrees C. in just 15 minutes.

- 75 per cent of the maximum temperature rise occurs within five minutes of closing the doors and maximizes to 51 to 67 degrees C. within 15 minutes.

- Even if parked in the shade, opening the window slightly or keeping the air conditioner on does not keep the temperature inside the car at a safe level.

- Because of their size, the core temperature of a baby or small pet can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Babies can become distressed in only five minutes and in less than 40 minutes, a child or pet could suffer severe dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke resulting in serious illness or death.

For more information on the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation visit

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