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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Thursday, June 30, 2011
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Children, Pets Should Never Be Left in Vehicles
Temperatures Can Reach Dangerous Levels in Moments

RICHMOND - Recent news reports about an infant dying in Danville after being left unattended in a hot vehicle serve to remind all motorists of the dangers of heat exposure.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles urges all Virginians to never leave children or the elderly unattended in vehicles, and to call 911 if they see an unattended child or older person in a vehicle. During warm weather, the inside of a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even when parked in the shade.

According to Safe Kids USA, an average of 38 children die from heat stroke after being left alone in a car each year in the United States. Children are at a high risk since their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults.

Safety experts also recommend that parents teach children not to play in any vehicle, and all vehicles and the trunk should be locked after everyone has exited, especially when parked at home. Keys should be kept out of children's reach.

Pets in Cars

In nice weather, pet owners may be tempted to take their companions in the car while traveling or doing errands. However, this can mean real trouble for animals that are left in hot cars. Dogs and cats cannot perspire and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Pets left in hot cars even briefly can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and can even die.

"Even if you'll be gone for 'just a minute,' your pet will not be safe while you're gone," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. "Being in a car where you just turned off the air-conditioner is not healthy for your dog or cat. To avoid any chance that your pet will succumb to the heat during these warm summer months, leave your pet at home while you're on the road."

Pets, like children, should be safely restrained while traveling. All it takes is a sudden stop or turn to seriously injure a pet, not to mention what could happen if the pet owner is involved in a crash.

Unrestrained pets are the cause of many crashes, as they can distract or even interfere with the driver's ability to control the vehicle. "Today's pet restraints and car seats quickly and easily attach to a vehicle's seat belt, and provide plenty of freedom for the pet to sit up or lie down," Holcomb said. "Wire cages or plastic crates are also excellent choices to protect pets while traveling, as they shield pets from falling objects."

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