As the dog days of summer continue and temperatures across the state top triple digits, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) wants to remind all Texans to take extra safety precautions, as the heat can pose an increased danger for at-risk populations — including children and the elderly — particularly in vehicles.
“We know extreme temperatures place children at a greater risk for injury, and even death, when they are left unattended in a vehicle, and that’s why we want to remind Texans to take every precaution possible and do their part to help ensure no children are left unattended in vehicles this summer,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Extreme heat brings many dangers, and those dangers should not be taken lightly. Heat-related injuries and deaths are often preventable, and we must all be vigilant in taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicular heatstroke is one of the leading causes of fatalities — that is not crash-related — among children. In 2019, 52 children died in the U.S. due to heatstroke from being left in vehicles.
Temperatures inside of a vehicle can rise by more than 20 degrees in 10 minutes. If it is a comfortable 60 degrees outside, it can be a sweltering 110 degrees inside a vehicle. Leaving windows partially rolled down doesn’t help. Additionally, the younger the child, the more severe the effects of heat on their body because of their inability to regulate internal temperature.
DPS offers the following tips to prevent vehicular heatstroke, and for staying safe and managing the heat:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and always check the back seats or cargo areas of a vehicle before walking away.
- Establish reminders that help ensure you remove children from the vehicle. This can include leaving your bag, lunch or cell phone in the back seat with the child’s car seat.
- If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1, and emergency personnel will provide guidance.
- Teach children not to play in vehicles, and make sure to place keys out-of-reach when not in use.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day even if you do not feel thirsty; you may not realize you’re dehydrated until it’s too late. Also avoid alcohol and beverages high in caffeine or sugar during periods of prolonged outdoor exposure.
- Pay attention to your body. Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can develop quickly. Know the warning signs and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Check on others, especially the elderly, sick, very young and those without air conditioning.
- Don’t forget pet safety. Animals are also susceptible to heat-related injury or death — don’t put your pets in these dangerous conditions.
- Monitor local weather updates and stay aware of any upcoming changes in the weather.
- Limit exposure to the sun and stay indoors as much as possible. If possible, avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day.
- Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat are recommended while spending time outdoors.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburns can affect your body’s ability to cool down.
- Be extra careful when cooking outdoors, building campfires or driving off-road to avoid igniting dry vegetation. Also, stay aware of burn bans in your area and always abide by restrictions on outside burning.
For additional information on preventing heatstroke in vehicles, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, Ready.gov, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the National Weather Service also have helpful tips on staying safe in the heat.