LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — With the summer heat at our door step, it’s important to ensure children and pets are well taken care of. Leaving them in the car can cause serious illness and even death. Parents and pet owners must be aware that even in cooler temperatures the car can heat up quickly, which can create a dangerous situation for a child or a pet.
“Children 3 years old and younger, as well as pets, can heat up three to five times faster than adults,” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing Ground Safety manager. “When you turn off your car, the temperature can get higher than 100 degrees in five minutes, and in 15 minutes it can go above 150 degrees. This can cause an an infant or pet left inside a car to overheat and suffer heatstroke in a small time frame.”
While some may think it won’t happen to them, Bruce warns them to think of safety first.
“Last year there were more than 500 emergency responses in the Phoenix Valley related to kids being left in the car,” he said.
While there is no law in Arizona that makes it illegal to leave a child in the car, a person could face charges of child endangerment, manslaughter or murder if it leads to injury or death.
“It’s not always devious or intentional,” Bruce said. “Most cases of children being left in cars are because mom or dad gets caught up in the activities of the day, and they forget to take their child inside, and that’s a tragic accident.”
Pets can also suffer from heatstroke if left in the car, and owners could be charged with animal cruelty.
“If you have to have your pets with you, the best thing is to tether them outside,” he said. “It’s better to have them outside of the vehicle instead of in it. Even if you close the car and crack the windows, the car’s temperature can get up to 120 degrees.”
Sometimes people have to take their pets with them, or parents might not have the option of leaving their children home by themselves.
“Never leave them in the car,” Bruce said. “The simplest thing is to always take the child or pet with you. It can be a hassle, but it’s the best course of action.”
Leaving your car locked with the air conditioning running might seem safe for your child or pet but it’s not.
“There have been times when a car is running, the doors are locked and a carjacker breaks into the car,” Bruce said. “Now he has the keys since the car was running, and he takes off with the car not even knowing there is a kid in the vehicle. After he’s driven off, the thief has no idea what to do with the kid.”
Bruce said the ease of leaving kids or pets in the car is not worth the risks. He cautions parents and pet owners to be diligent in their responsibilities and to make a habit of safe practices.
“The best way to beat the heat is to check the back seat,” he said. “Make sure every time you get out of the vehicle, sweep the backseat and make sure you take everyone out. It’s those inadvertent unintentional accidents that can produce a devastating outcome.”