The summer months are upon us and with the rising temperatures comes a warning from AAA Mid-Atlantic which has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind parents and caregivers to "look before you lock" in an effort to prevent the deadly consequences of leaving children in hot cars.  

AAA is warning motorists to 'look before you lock' in an effort to keep kids from being locked in hot cars. (Noel Hendrickson, ThinkStock)

Heatstroke is the number one cause of non crash-related fatalities for children age 14 and younger. According to the NHTSA, at least 30 children who were left in vehicles died of heatstroke in 2014.

"As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also increases," said Sue Madden, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Often times, the child is in the back, maybe asleep, parents are tired and they just forget."

From 1998-2014, 636 children died of heatstroke. Of the 636 deaths, 53 percent of children were forgotten by a caregiver, 29 percent were playing in an unattended vehicle, 17 percent were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult and one percent were unknown cases.  A child's body temperature can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult and heatstroke can occur in outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in 10 minutes.

Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down.  It becomes lethal at a core temperature of 107 degrees.

"We want to remind parents and caregivers to always look in the back of the car before they lock the door," Madden said.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging all parents and caregivers to take the following steps:

  • Never leave a child in an unattended vehicle;
  • Make it a habit to look in the backseat every time you exit the car;
  • Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach;
  • If you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away.

Signs of heatstroke include: red, hot, moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong, rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea, confusion or acting strangely.  If a child is exhibiting any of these signs, call 911 immediately. While waiting for help, cool the child down by spraying them with cool water, not an ice bath.