As Warm Temperatures Persist across NY, State Agencies Partner to Keep Kids and Pets Out of Hot Cars

DMV partnering with several New York State agencies reminding New Yorkers to be aware of the dangers of leaving children and animals in hot vehicles.

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Across the country, heatstroke kills dozens of children left in hot vehicles each year, including 24 children in 2015.

Photo by: NYSDOH, via YouTube.

Albany, NY - August 2, 2016 - The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), partnering with several New York State agencies, today reminded New Yorkers to be aware of the dangers of leaving children and animals in hot vehicles as warm temperatures and humidity persist across the state.

“It is simple: leaving babies, toddlers, young children, and pets in cars when temperatures climb has deadly consequences,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan. “It is always important to remain alert and remember the dangers that rising temperatures in cars can pose to children and animals. Remember that there is no safe length of time or any good reason to leave a child or a pet locked in a parked car in the hot summer weather. By being vigilant and cautious, we can each do our part to prevent tragedies.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 661 children died due to heatstroke from 1998 to 2015; 24 of those deaths were just last year. Such tragic situations can happen to anyone, even the best of parents and caregivers, making it imperative to raise awareness of the issue. In 54 percent of cases in which a child died from heatstroke in a hot car, the child was “forgotten” by the caregiver, and in 29 percent of cases, children got into the vehicle on their own.

NHTSA reports that even cool temperatures in the 60’s can cause the temperature to rise well above 110 degrees inside your car. In fact, the inside temperature can rise almost 20 degrees within the first ten minutes. NHTSA also reports that children's bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness.

Last year, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released a video, “Keep kids out of hot cars!” to raise awareness of the issue. Health officials recommend that parents and caregivers follow these tips to keep children safe from heatstroke and from being left alone in a hot vehicle:
  • Running errands? Take kids with you. Or use a “drive-thru” so you don’t need to leave the car. Pay for gas at the pump.
  • Keep a toy or large, stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When you buckle in your child, move the animal/toy to the front seat. It will remind you that a child is in the car seat. Alternatively, put your briefcase, cell phone, or diaper bag in the backseat so you need to open the back door to get it. It will also remind you that a child is waiting for you.
  • Ask your child care provider to call you if your child doesn’t show up as expected, especially if there is a change of routine.
  • Set a reminder or alarm on your cell phone to remind you to drop your child off at school, or have a loved one call you to confirm that your child was dropped off or picked up.
  • Put a “sticky” note where you will see it while in your car – on your dash or another spot. It will remind you where your children are and when to pick them up or drop them off.
  • Before you lock your car, always check the backseat and trunk or cargo area.

Anyone who sees a child alone in a hot car should not wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return, and should call 911 and get the child or pet out of the car. Stay with the child until help arrives, and have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them. Warning signs of heatstroke vary, but may include red, hot, and moist or dry skin; lack of sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; a throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; being grouchy; or acting strangely.

“A hot car can be deadly to children and pets -- they should never be left behind for any amount of time in a hot parked vehicle,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “Heatstroke can happen in a matter of minutes. We’re urging New Yorkers to remain alert to the presence of children and animals in their cars. And if they ever see a child or animal in a car alone, they should call for help immediately.”

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services also works to raise awareness of leaving children unattended in or around vehicles. The agency advises teaching children not to play in or around vehicles, and to alert an adult when a friend is playing in a vehicle without supervision – a tip important not just in summer months when children can become trapped in hot vehicles, but year-round.

“Always look before you lock,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. “It’s a good idea to place an item in the back seat with your child that you’ll want immediately, such as your cell phone, purse or briefcase, to make sure you check the back seat before walking away from the car. The body temperature of an infant or small child can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. They should never be left in a hot vehicle.”

The New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs developed a toolkit on heatstroke dangers, which includes a hang tag and vehicle inspection safety tips for service providers.

Justice Center Special Prosecutor/Inspector General Patricia E. Gunning said, ”In recent weeks, the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs’ 24/7 toll-free hotline for reporting allegations of abuse and neglect has received a number of reports of individuals with disabilities and special needs being left unaccompanied in vehicles. Each incident is being investigated and individual actions will be taken as appropriate. While none of the individuals suffered serious injury, it is important to keep in mind that people with special needs who are left alone in a vehicle that can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures may not be able to seek help for themselves. During this heat wave, we urge the public to keep an eye out for adults and children left alone in a car or van and immediately call 911 for help.”

Other members of our families – including pets – are put in danger by being left in hot cars. Each year, pets suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation. Signs of heat stress in animals include panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following tips for helping a pet left in a hot car:

  • Take down the car's make, model and license-plate number.
  • If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
  • If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive. 

Dr. David Smith, New York’s State Veterinarian, implores pet owners to never leave pets unattended in cars. “On a hot day, the temperature inside a parked car can hit 130 degrees in just 40 minutes – pets can die or get very sick from heat exhaustion in a closed car in very little time.” 

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