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Dangers of Hot Cars

Temperatures are on the rise, so it’s time for a reminder that people should not leave children or pets in hot cars, even for a short period of time.

It is not safe to leave anyone, human or animal, shut inside a car, where temperatures can reach deadly levels. Studies have shown that cars can heat up surprisingly quickly, even when the weather is mild or overcast. On a 72-degree day, for example, temperatures can reach 116 degrees in a car in less than an hour.

A study by San Francisco State University found that when it is 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car rises to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes.

According to the National Safety Council, 51 children died in hot cars in the U.S. last year, the highest number on record since 1998. Of those, 24 percent occurred in employer parking lots while a parent or caregiver was at work. “NSC advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child,” according to a report at

“Place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to take one last look before walking away. Keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access, and teach them that cars are not play areas. There is no safe time to leave a child in a vehicle, even if you are just running a quick errand.”

More than 53 percent of cases involve a child who was forgotten; 26 percent are children who gained access to the vehicle without an adult knowing it; and more than 18 percent were knowingly left in the vehicle. “Even on mild or cloudy days, temperatures inside vehicles can reach life-threatening levels,” according to NSC. “Leaving windows slightly open doesn’t help. Children should never be left unattended or be able to get inside a vehicle.

You can see the full report, and take a free online safety course, at

If you see a child in a dangerous situation, call 911 immediately.

As for pets, when temperatures get over 80 degrees, people should not take animals along on their regular shopping trips. Cracking a window or even putting water down in a pan doesn’t help. Animal Control has told us they see many cases of animals suffering heat stroke.

It is also not safe even when you leave the air conditioner running with the doors locked.

You can call the Department of Animal Control at 336-703-2490 to report a problem from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. any day. After hours, you should call the sheriff’s department or police.

Animal Control gets calls about these situations, but often by the time they can respond the car has left, and the owner may not realize their pet could have been suffering and will continue this dangerous behavior.

If the vehicle is in front of a store, you can let the store manager know so he can make an announcement, because sometimes an owner may have run into a store and lost track of time. If it’s not an emergency, you can also write down the license plate and let animal control know so officers can send the owner a letter.

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