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AA and SPCA’s issues hot car warning to public

AA Roadservice Officer Skeeta Swanson. Supplied images.

As the days are getting hotter, the AA and SPCA are reminding motorists to never leave their children or pets in parked cars - no matter where or how the car is parked, and not even for five minutes.

AA Auckland Roadservice Officer Brett ‘Skeeta’ Swanson is familiar with responding to emergency callouts for children or pets locked in vehicles.

“We Service Officers find it very sad when we see a dog suffering inside a hot car. Often they will be cowering under the dashboard trying to find a patch of shade in the vehicle to escape the heat. It’s not nice to see an animal in this position.”

In 2021 so far, AA Roadservice has been to more than 440 emergency callouts for children locked in vehicles and more than 500 for pets.

The callouts will often peak at 40-50+ a month during hot summers.

“People may think they can reduce the risks by doing things like parking their car in the shade, having the windows slightly open or because their car is a lighter colour, they think it won’t get as hot compared to a black car. These attempts are ineffective and don’t make your car any safer on a hot day.”

On a 30°C day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 39°C in less than five minutes; in 30 minutes, it will be 49°C. This occurs even if the vehicle is parked in the shade with the windows down.

“Just think back years ago when you hopped into a car with vinyl seats wearing shorts and how hot it got on the back of your legs, or touching the metal on your seatbelt. I recall back when cassette players were common in cars and on summer days, people would find their tapes melting on the parcel shelf. This heat is life threatening for any child or pet in a parked car.”

AA General Manager Roadside Solutions Bashir Khan says often these incidents are accidents where a child has been given the keys and locked themselves in a car, or a dog has jumped up on the central locking system while the parent or owner is walking to the other driver door.

“However, it is still disappointing to see a number of calls to us from concerned members of public who have come across someone else’s dog or child in a shopping mall carpark or elsewhere.

“Our message is simple: never leave your children or pets in your vehicle, even if you’re just nipping into a shop.”

One common accidental error AA Service Officers come across is people who unlock solely their car boot to get something, place the keys down inside the boot, then close it without grabbing the keys and lock them inside.

“Try to avoid this by popping the keys in your pocket, or any way to avoid accidentally locking them inside when you have the car boot open and car doors locked,” says Skeet.

The AA also support the SPCA with emergency callouts when they require lockout assistance.

Skeeta and SPCA Inspectors.

SPCA National Inspectorate Manager Alan Wilson says, “Just a few minutes inside a hot car can lead to tragedy, which is something we don’t want to see any dog or their owner to go through. Always take your dog with you when you leave the vehicle, and if that’s not possible then please leave them at home.”

What to do if you see a child or pet suffering in a hot car

Call the AA, and the Police or SPCA immediately. There must be someone present at the scene to take responsibility for the vehicle/child/pet.

The AA immediately prioritises any calls involving children or pets locked inside a vehicle. One or two Roadservice Officers arrive at the scene free-of-charge, regardless of whether the person is an AA Member or not. If the situation is deemed to be serious, the AA calls the Fire Service in case there is a delay in arrival.

To call the AA for emergency lockout assistance, call 0800 500 222 or *222 from mobile phones.

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