Summer Heat Can Turn Your Car Into A Furnace In Minutes, Warns BCAA

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August, 2011 (Burnaby, B.C.): An unfortunate incident over the Canada Day long weekend in which a six-month old puppy died after being left alone in a hot vehicle in Burnaby serves as an example of how quickly temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to dangerous�and sometimes fatal�levels. What parents and pet owners may not know, and what the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) would like everyone to know, is that it only takes minutes for your car to become a four-door furnace and a safety risk to vulnerable passengers such as children and pets.

“Cars sitting in the hot summer sun act like magnifying glasses, creating intense interior heat,” says Ken Cousin, BCAA’s Associate Vice President, Road Assist. “Interior temperatures can climb to over 60 degrees Celsius in just 10 to 20 minutes, despite windows or sunroofs being left slightly open or parking the car in the shade.”

According to the Vehicle Cabin Temperatures Survey conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland in Australia, temperatures inside a car can increase by 50 percent within five minutes and 80 percent within 15 minutes. The Canada Safety Council also reports high temperatures in a confined space of a car can cause a child or pet to go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.

Each year, BCAA Road Assist rescues close to 300 children and pets from locked cars. 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. BCAA receives about 100,000 requests from Members each year to retrieve keys from inside locked cars.

To avoid any chance of a child or family pet being 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.
  • Leave your pets at home during hot summer days unless you need to take them to the veterinarian office, doggie day camp, or grooming salon.
  • 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.
  • If you drive a pickup truck, don’t leave dogs in the truck bed. The heat can burn their feet.
  • Before buckling children into their seats, check to make sure surfaces such as seat belt buckles aren�t overly hot as they could burn a child�s sensitive skin.
  • 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.
  • If a child or pet is locked inside a vehicle, don�t hesitate to call 9-1-1.

Develop a routine so you’re always aware that your child or pet is with you

  • Look before you leave. Always turn around to check your backseat before you leave the car. It is surprisingly common to forget you have kids or pets with you if they are quiet or sleeping.
  • If you need to retrieve items placed in the backseat, make it a habit to open the rear doors rather than reaching from the front seat. This will ensure you don�t forget anyone.
  • Put your child�s bags and other items in the front seat. With their belongings in plain sight, you’re less likely to forget you�re travelling with them.
  • If you have several kids and/or pets in the car, do a head count before you close the door to make sure everyone is out when you reach your destination.

Facts about heat stress from enclosed cars:

  • On a mild summer day, the temperature inside a parked car can rise to more then 60 degrees C. in just 15 minutes.
  • 50 percent of the temperature rise occurs within five minutes of closing the doors and temperatures can rise as high as 73 degrees C.
  • 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 small size, the core temperature of a baby or small pet can increase three to five times more rapidly and dramatically than an adult. Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5 degrees C. and can result in delirium, convulsions, coma or death.

About BCAA

BCAA strives to deliver an amazing experience to its 795,000 members, providing peace-of-mind and meeting their automotive, road travel and insurance needs. BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with $400 million in gross annual sales and a Member in one-in-four B.C. households. In addition to receiving award winning roadside assistance and insurance services, Members can also take advantage of CAA dollar rewards, insurance discounts and the Member exclusive Show Your Card & Save program. To learn more about BCAA’s benefits, services and advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com.