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As temps rise, so do risks for kids, pets and vehicles

With Iron Mountain expected to reach 90 degrees today, it’s safe to say summer heat has settled into the region.

With that in mind, AAA has offered safety tips to help motorists keep their children, pets and vehicles safe during the warmer months.

Excessive heat can pose great risks to motorists. Within just a few minutes the inside of a car can become dangerously hot, AAA warned in a news release. Since 1998, 971 children have died due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke, according to noheatstroke.org. And more than half of the deaths — 55% — are children younger than 2 years old. Despite warnings from safety organizations, each year children continue to die from this needless tragedy.

“People often think that something like this could never happen to them,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “However, many heatstroke deaths are accidents, where a parent or caregiver forgets the child is in the back seat.”

Tips to help keep children safe include —

— Don’t leave them alone, not even for a minute: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are open or the air conditioning is running.

— Vehicles aren’t play areas. Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle.

— Put keys out of sight. Always lock your vehicle — even in driveways and garages — and keep keys out of children’s reach.

— Make it a habit — before locking a vehicle, check the front and back seat.

— Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When the child is with you, move it to the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the back.

— Set an alarm. Consider programming an alarm on your phone that will go off to remind you to check your vehicle.

— Caregiver assistance — if you normally drop a child off at a babysitter or day care, ask the caregiver to call if the child doesn’t show up as expected.

— Add a reminder. Put your purse/wallet or cell phone in the back seat. This way, you are reminded to look in the back seat before leaving the vehicle.

— Call for help. If you see a child or pet alone in the car, call 911 immediately and follow the instructions of emergency personnel.

The soaring temperatures in a vehicle can also place pets at risk. Never leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days the temperature inside a car can soar to well over 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes, placing your pet at risk for heatstroke and possibly death.

Extreme heat can also pose risks to your vehicle. AAA recommends drivers check these five key areas to help their vehicle safely survive higher temperatures:

Battery

— Securely mount the battery in place to minimize vibration.

— Clean any corrosive buildup from the battery terminals and cable clamps.

— Ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move.

— If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last. The test can be performed at any AAA-approved auto repair facility, or AAA members can request a AAA mobile battery service technician come to them and test their battery free of charge. Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it on location. For more information about the AAA mobile battery service, go to AAA.com/Battery.

Engine coolant

— Have the system flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

— Consult the owner’s manual to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

— Inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.

— Replace worn parts.

Tires

— Check tires when the car has not been driven recently.

— Inflate tires to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, not the number molded into the tire sidewall.

— Inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.

Engine fluids

— Check all vehicle fluids, including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.

— If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

Air conditioning

— Maintain a comfortable driving environment to reduce fatigue and increase driver alertness for increased vehicle safety.

— Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.

Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur. AAA recommends every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.

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