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Car safety in hot weather: what every parent and pet owner should know

With temperatures expected to reach the high 20s to low 30s over the next several days across most of Ontario, vehicle safety is extremely important.

As sweltering temperatures grip Ontario, it is crucial to be aware of the life-threatening dangers that can arise within the passenger compartment of a car. Even on seemingly mild days, or during scorching summer heatwaves, the confined space of a vehicle can transform into a deadly oven.

In this restricted environment, temperatures skyrocket rapidly, overpowering the body's ability to regulate internal heat. Infants and small pets are particularly vulnerable as their core temperatures can increase three to five times faster than adults. Distress can occur in babies within just five minutes, and within less than 40 minutes, a child or pet could suffer from severe dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, leading to serious illness or even death.

On a mild summer day, the temperature inside a parked car can exceed 50 degrees Celsius in just 15 minutes. What's more, about 75% of the maximum temperature rise occurs within five minutes of closing the doors, reaching a staggering 51 to 67 degrees Celsius within 15 minutes.

Even if parked in the shade, cracking a window or running the air conditioner does not effectively lower the temperature inside the car to a safe level.


With the scorching summer heat upon us, it's vital to understand the potential dangers of leaving children or pets unattended in a vehicle. Even with windows down or the air conditioner on, the passenger compartment can turn into a perilous environment. Let's explore some key measures to keep your loved ones safe and prevent heat-related tragedies.

1. Never Leave Children or Pets Alone in a Car

This rule cannot be emphasized enough: never leave a child or pet unattended in a car, regardless of whether the windows are down or the air conditioner is running. The temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise rapidly and reach dangerous levels within minutes, posing severe risks to those inside.

2. Educate Children and Secure Car Keys

Teach your children the importance of not playing in cars and keep car keys out of reach and sight. By instilling this awareness, you reduce the chances of a child accidentally entering a vehicle and locking themselves inside.

3. Lock Your Vehicle, Even at Home

Always keep your vehicle locked, even when parked in the garage or driveway at home. This precautionary measure helps prevent toddlers from crawling into the car and accidentally locking themselves inside.

4. Plan Errands with Safety in Mind

When running errands, consider leaving children with a responsible adult at home or travelling with a trustworthy passenger who can stay with them while you complete your tasks. Prioritizing their safety is crucial during hot summer days.

5. Keep Pets at Home

Unless necessary for veterinary appointments, doggie day camp, or grooming salon visits, it's best to keep your pets at home during hot summer days. The heat can be overwhelming and potentially harmful to their well-being.

6. Pickup Trucks and Pets

If you drive a pickup truck, avoid leaving dogs in the truck bed, as the heat can burn their feet. Ensure their safety by allowing them to travel inside the vehicle with appropriate ventilation and temperature control.

7. Check Surfaces for Heat

Before buckling children into car seats, take a moment to check surfaces such as seat belt buckles. These surfaces can become excessively hot and potentially burn a child's sensitive skin.

8. Emergency Situations: Call 9-1-1

In extreme emergency situations where a child or pet is locked inside a vehicle, immediately call 9-1-1 for assistance. Professional help is crucial in these life-threatening scenarios.

Photo by Anvesh on Unsplash

Develop a Routine for Safety

Developing a routine can help ensure you never forget that your child or pet is with you. Here are some helpful practices to incorporate into your daily life:

  • Look before You Leave: Always turn around and check your backseat before leaving the car. It's surprisingly common to forget about children or pets when they're quiet or asleep.

  • Access Items through Rear Doors: If you need to retrieve items from the backseat, make it a habit to open the rear doors instead of reaching from the front seat. This action reduces the chances of forgetting anyone in the vehicle.

  • Place Belongings in the Front Seat: Keep your child's bags and other items in the front seat. By having their belongings within sight, you are less likely to overlook their presence.

  • Do a Head Count: If you have multiple children or pets in the car, perform a head count before closing the doors to ensure everyone is out when you reach your destination.

By following these crucial tips and being aware of the alarming facts surrounding heat stress in enclosed cars, we can protect our loved ones from the dangers of hot vehicles. Let's prioritize their safety and make responsible choices to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for all.