AAA offers tips to prevent tragedies involving hot cars, kids, and pets

(AAA – The Auto Club Group)  With forecasts predicting temperatures in the ’90s for portions of the state this week, AAA is urging motorists to keep their children, pets, and vehicles safe during what is expected to be some of the hottest weather so far this summer. 

“In just 10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees and become deadly,” said Megan Cooper, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We are urging parents and caregivers to not underestimate the risks that excessive heat can pose and to understand that hot car deaths are preventable.”

According to NoHeatstroke.org, on average, 38 children die from heatstroke inside hot vehicles each year nationwide. Despite warnings from safety organizations each year, children continue to die from this preventable tragedy. 

AAA-The Auto Club Group provides the following safety tips to help keep children safe: 

  • Don’t Leave Children Alone, Even for Short Amounts of Time – Never leave children unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are open or the air conditioning is running.
  • Teach Children That Vehicles Are Not Play Areas – Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach your children that a vehicle is not an appropriate hiding spot in hide-and-seek.
  • Keep Your Vehicle Locked – lock your vehicle doors and trunk even in driveways and garages, and keep keys out of children’s reach. 
  • Make it a Habit to Check Your Vehicle– Before locking your vehicle and walking away, make it a habit to always check the front and back seats. 
  • Create Caregiver Reminders – If you normally drop your child off at a babysitter or daycare, ask the caregiver to call you if your child doesn’t show up as expected.
  • Add Reminders in Your Vehicle- Put your purse, wallet, or cell phone in the back seat. This way, you are reminded to look in the back seat before leaving the vehicle. You can also keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When the child is with you, move it to the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the back. 
  • Call for Help – If you see a child or pet alone in a locked car, call 911 immediately and follow the instructions of emergency personnel. 

The soaring temperatures in a vehicle can also place your pets at risk. Never leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days, your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet in danger.   

Extreme heat can also pose risks to your vehicle. AAA recommends drivers check these five key areas to help their vehicle safely survive higher temperatures:

1. Battery

  • Securely mount the battery in place to minimize vibration.
  • Clean any corrosive build-up from the battery terminals and cable clamps.
  • Ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move.
  • If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last.
    • Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it on location. For more information about the AAA Mobile Battery Service visit AAA.com/Battery

2. Engine Coolant

  • Have the system flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Consult the owner’s manual to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.
  • Inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.
  • Replace worn parts. 

3. Tires

  • Check tires when the car has not been driven recently.
  • Inflate tires to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer—not the number molded into the tire sidewall.
  • Inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem. 

4. Engine Fluids

  • Check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.
  • If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual. 

5. Air Conditioning

  • Maintain a comfortable driving environment to reduce fatigue and increase driver alertness for increased vehicle safety.
  • Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician. 

Be Prepared for Summer Breakdowns

Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur.  AAA recommends every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should include a flashlight and extra fresh batteries, first-aid supplies, drinking water, non-perishable snacks for people and pets, car battery booster cables, emergency flares or reflectors, a rain poncho, and a basic tool kit, duct tape, gloves, and shop rags or paper towels.

To help keep Tennesseans’ vehicle emergency kits fully stocked this summer, local AAA branches are providing free AAA Summer Driving Kits. To find your local AAA branch visit AAA.com/Branches. You do not have to be a AAA member to pick up a kit. 

Drivers who find themselves stranded can reach AAA by calling or texting “HELP” to 1-800-AAA-HELP (save this in your contacts), submitting a request via the web (bookmark in your favorites), or using the AAA mobile app (available on Google Play or in the App Store).

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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