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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Monday, June 16, 2014
Media Contact: Sunni Brown
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6834

Donít Leave Your Child, Pet or Elderly Parent in a Vehicle
Temperatures May Become Deadly in Just Moments

RICHMOND - During warm weather, leaving pets, children or the elderly unattended in vehicles is dangerous and may be fatal. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) Highway Safety Office wants all Virginians to remember that hot vehicles can kill. "When outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even when parked in the shade," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative.

According to Safe Kids USA, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. Since 1998, more than 600 children in the United States - or one child every ten days - have died from heatstroke when left unattended in a vehicle or after gaining access to an unattended vehicle. Nearly 90 percent were children three and younger. Last year in 2013, 44 children died, one of the worst years on record. Children are at a high risk since their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults.

Safety experts also urge parents and caregivers to lock their vehicles, including doors and the trunk, when they are not using them. Keys and remote entry fobs should be kept out of children's sight and reach. Teach kids that trunks are for transporting cargo and are not safe places to play.

Not only are children and older adults vulnerable, but pets left in hot vehicles can also suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and death. Dogs and cats are prone to extreme heat since they cannot perspire and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet.

"These kinds of tragedies are 100 percent preventable," Holcomb said. "We want everyone to be on the lookout for kids, the elderly and pets left unattended in cars. Keep an eye out when you're walking through the parking lot at your local grocery, shopping center, church or school."

If you see a child, older adult or pet unattended in a hot car, Safe Kids USA recommends you call 911 right away, rather than breaking into the vehicle or shattering the window. "Bystanders may be uncomfortable acting when they see a child or pet left alone, but they need to know that one call can save a life," Holcomb said. "Emergency personnel would much rather respond to a false alarm than a fatality."

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