For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is warning New Yorkers of the danger children and pets face when left in hot cars. As high temperatures are reaching record levels this summer, there is a real and severe danger when leaving children or pets unsupervised in a car even when temperatures don’t “feel” hot. At 60 degrees outside, after just one hour a closed car can get as hot as 105 degrees. During this unprecedented hot weather, the Division recommends exercising precaution and early intervention to help prevent illness and even fatal consequences if a child or an animal is left unattended for a period of time in a hot car.
“Extremely hot weather endangers children and pets left unintentionally in a hot car,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “I urge all New Yorkers to be careful and attentive when driving this summer with children or pets, as just a few moments alone in a hot car can risk a loved one’s life. Please follow these important safety tips from the Division of Consumer Protection.”
Mark J.F. Schroeder, Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, said, “Leaving children, vulnerable adults or pets in a car for even a short length of time with the windows cracked is dangerous. A car can heat up quickly even on a mildly hot day. I urge all parents and caregivers to find a way to remember to look in the back before you lock your car.”
Unfortunately, multiple deaths have been reported after children and pets have been left in a hot vehicle. There is a real danger in extreme weather because heatstroke or deaths in cars occur most commonly when an adult unintentionally forgets that a child or pet, who may be quiet or sleeping in a in a rear-facing seat. Along with these incidents, children can also gain unsupervised access to parked cars and get stuck inside, especially if child safety locks are on.
Tragically, 942 children have died nationwide due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) since 1998. Ten of these were in New York State. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), every year many pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles. In 2022 alone, 56 animals died due to heat–related deaths and another 488 were rescued from the heat. Anyone found responsible for leaving a child or pet alone in a hot car could face criminal charges.
Follow these tips to prevent additional tragedies for you and your young ones:
Safety Tips for Children
- Never leave a child in an unattended vehicle in the warm weather, not even with the windows slightly open or down, due to the risk of heatstroke (hyperthermia).
- If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 right away and follow their instructions. Emergency personnel are trained to respond.
- Teach children not to play in or around vehicles and to alert an adult when a friend is playing in a vehicle without supervision. Make sure children understand the dangers of trunk entrapment (suffocation, heatstroke, etc.).
- Place something you need, like keys, a purse or bag, or your cell phone, next to your child's car seat so you will remember to check the backseat before you lock the car. Alternatively, place a stuffed toy in your child’s car seat when not in use and move the toy to the front passenger seat when your child is in his/her car seat as a reminder that your child is in the vehicle.
- Use drive-through services whenever possible while driving with a child in a vehicle.
It is vital to recognize the symptoms of heatstroke in children. Symptoms include absence of sweat, confusion, disorientation, flushed skin, loss of alertness, unconsciousness or rapid/shallow breathing.
Safety Tips for Pets
- Never leave a pet unattended in the car. Like children, dogs and other animals have a harder time staying cool, leaving them extremely vulnerable to heatstroke.
A car can overheat even when the window has been left cracked an inch or two. Parking in the shade or leaving water in the vehicle won’t prevent your pet from overheating, either.
- According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), young, overweight or senior animals or those with short muzzles or thick or dark coats are most at risk for overheating.
- If you see a pet in a hot car, call 911 immediately.
- Recognize the symptoms of heatstroke in pets and take action if you see them. Symptoms include restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of appetite or coordination.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.