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Look before locking car

Every summer, disturbing news reports arrive about children left in sweltering vehicles. Many of these cases are fatal. The National Safety Council reports that on average 39 children under the age of 15 die from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle each year in the U.S. More than half have occurred because a child was forgotten.

A Stanford University School of Medicine study found that a vehicle’s passenger compartment can heat up an average of 40 degrees within an hour, regardless of the outside temperature. The study found that when it’s 85 degrees outside, a car’s interior can get to 104 degrees after 10 minutes and 119 after 30 minutes. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour. The danger does not just come on hot days. The sun’s rays are the culprit. Stanford reported deaths had occurred with outside conditions as cool as 70 degrees.

Children are not the only victims of hot car neglect. Hundreds of pets die each year after being left in hot cars.

Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis said the shelter rescued three pets from hot cars, two of which were in 120-degree heat, just last week. Davis said it’s not unusual for animal control or 911 to get three or four calls about pets locked in cars in a day. They tend to get about a dozen such calls per week in the hotter months.

So what to do if you see a child or a distressed animal left in a warm vehicle? Calling 911 is your first step. If others are around, a search party for the driver would be in order.

For parents, caregivers and pet owners, though, the best defense against a horrific outcome is paying proper attention. If you must have a child with you on your trip out, follow that “look twice before you lock” advice. Use your phone to set reminder alerts. Tape a note on your own door. Place the stuff you need for your trip or for work in the back seat with the child.

For pet owners, unless you’re headed to a veterinarian’s office, a groomer, a dog park or another household for a visit, there are few reasons for you to drag Fido or Mittens along with you. Leaving a cracked window is not enough.

* Guest editorial from The Johnson City Press in Johnson City, Tenn.

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