PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Even when you’re running a quick errand in the dog days of August, temperatures inside an enclosed car can rise to life-threatening levels, especially for children and animals.
“People are usually pretty good with it,” said Lt. James Ladeairous, spokesman for the Port Chester Police Department. “We’ve seen it where someone has called in seeing a dog in a car, and it turns out the owner couldn’t take the dog into the store and windows are open.”
Outside temperatures of just 60 degrees can cause car temperatures to rise to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, on an 85-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 102 degrees and 20 minutes to reach 120 degrees. Leaving windows cracked and water in the car is not enough to keep children or pets cool.
A total of 14 states, including New York, prohibit inhumane confinement of animals in parked cars. A first offense can yield a fine of $50 to $100 and the fine for a second offense can reach up to $250. Under New York law, police may take necessary steps to remove an animal from a vehicle and will not be liable if actions are taken in reasonably good faith.
Ladeairous said that from May to August, there have been no written reports of children or animals being left in cars in Port Chester. In January the department received a call of a small child left unattended in a black sedan at the Walgreens parking lot. “The child had lice, and his mom went to get lice medication and was watching from the window,” Ladeairous said. “She didn’t want to bring the child with lice into the place.”
As of Aug. 7, 2012, 23 children around the country have died of heatstroke in cars, according to KidsAndCars.org, a public safety awareness website for child safety around automobiles. On hot August days, a car can heat up quickly and hyperthermia can set in.
New York state does not have a law to address unattended children in cars, but parents can be criminally charged under child endangerment laws. During the past legislative session, the state Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. Steve Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) prohibiting leaving a child under age 8 unattended in a motor vehicle when conditions may present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child. The bill was delivered to the Assembly in Feburary, but never passed.
Here are some tips to avoid accidentally leaving a child in a hot car, from kidsandcars.org:
• Always lock your car so that a child can’t wander into – and potentially get trapped in – an unattended vehicle.
• Place a teddy bear or other attention-getting reminder that a child is in the backseat, so you don’t inadvertently leave a child in the vehicle.
• Place items you definitely will need at your destination (keys, etc.) in the backseat of the car so you’ll be forced to look for them once you get there.
For more information on heat stroke and children visit kidsandcars.org.
For tips on keeping your pet cool in the summer and signs of heat exhaustion, visit the ASPCA website.
If you see an unattended child or pet inside a vehicle, call 911 and remain with the vehicle until authorities arrive.