Southern California & Summer Time: Somethings just go perfectly together, hand-in-hand.

The sun, the beach, and the fun – it all involves hitting the road.

Whether you’re in the Inland Empire, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange County or San Diego, every good driver and automotive lover knows the importance of passenger safety and careful summertime vehicle maintenance.

Doug Shupe, from the Auto Club of Southern California, shares helpful precautionary tips for summertime driving and road trips in this iDSC Podcast.

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Recorded July 11, 2018, Los Angeles, CA

Summertime Road Safety

Doug Shupe: Here in Southern California, we know that within minutes, the interior temperatures of cars parked in direct sunlight can reach up to 133 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature is 90 degrees.

Tom Smith: That’s crazy.

Doug Shupe: That’s an incredible hot box. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen. Summer’s high temperatures can take a toll on everything in your vehicle. Extreme heat can push your car past its limits

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here. And today, I am joined by Doug Shupe, who’s the Senior Public Affairs Specialist for the Auto Club of Southern California. Most of us know that as AAA. Doug, thanks for joining me.

Doug Shupe: Thanks, Tom. for having me.

Tom Smith: So, the topic that we’re going to be talking about today with Doug is, as we hit the summer temperatures here in Southern California, the extreme heat, we’re talking about those temperatures, and how that impacts our drive, as well as those that we drive around. So, the two umbrella items that we’re going to cover here are, of course, our listeners would never leave their kids or pets in their hot vehicle. But we are going to touch on that. And then, we’re also going to talk maintenance, about what to do to assure that you have no issues while tooling around the highways and byways of Southern California yourself.

Temperatures Inside Your Car Spike Fast!

Tom Smith: So, the first thing, and this was just in the news, what, a day or two ago. Doug. Someone in the Inland Empire left their couple of young kids in a hot car. And Inland Empire temperatures are what? Three digits, to begin with.

Doug Shupe: Triple digit heat, Tom, yeah. And, you know, you think that you wouldn’t have to talk about this, but, unfortunately, we hear about these types of incidents occurring every single summer. That’s why the Auto Club is just committed to reminding people about what could happen if you leave people or pets in hot cars during these summer months. And, really, here in Southern California, all year long.

Tom Smith: Now, I schmooze our listeners, my listeners, you, the listener listening on the treadmill, on your bicycle, in the plane, in your car, wherever you’re listening right now, and say, “We would never do that,” collectively, you and I, podcast listener. Thank you for listening. However, the reality is I’m sitting here with Doug, and I was just explaining that there’s this one takeout restaurant that my wife and I love Ramen.

As you know, I have a 9-month-old at home. That is … It keeps us from … He keeps us from going out very often. So, when it’s time to grab a bite, I go and grab something. And, oftentimes, Mr. Jake, our dog, comes with me. And I’m very careful about leaving him in the car. And I do leave the air conditioning on. But Doug was just telling me even when being careful, that is a no-no for a number of different reasons. Doug, take it away.

Take No Chances

Doug Shupe: Yeah, Tom. A lot of people think that they can crack the windows, or they can leave the AC running while-

Tom Smith: Which I’ve done.

Doug Shupe: … they do that errand. But, unfortunately, there have been cases where the AC in the vehicle has stopped working while the driver, while the person was away, and they came back to find a tragedy. And, you know, a lot of these cases where we see or we hear about children being left inside of a vehicle don’t necessarily happen intentionally.

In fact, the research shows that about 52% of child deaths as a result of being left in a hot car happened when a caregiver or a parent forgot about them. This happens when somebody changes routine. Dad is going to take the child to the daycare and completely blanks out.

Create Fool-Proof Plans

They’re thinking about what’s ahead or coming up at work that day, and they completely forget about the child in the back of the car. About 29% of child deaths in hot cars happen because the child’s playing inside of an unattended vehicle. And then, about 18% of children who die in hot cars, that happens because they were intentionally left by an adult. And then, about 1% are circumstances unknown, you know.

But the vast majority are these that are happening because of that switch in routine. And we really encourage people to create reminders for yourself. If you are going to have somebody else take your child to the daycare, to school, you know, especially these young children that they’re in the child safety seats, you create reminders for yourself. Simple things. Put a small toy in the dashboard in front of you. Tie your ribbon to your steering wheel. Put something that you use that you’re going to need at your next-

Tom Smith: Right.

Doug Shupe: … stop in the back, a mobile device, your cellphone, your laptop. And this may sound extreme, but, you know, take the shoe off of the foot that you’re not using to drive, and put that shoe in the back. You’re not going to get out of the vehicle and go too far with just one shoe on.

How to React When You Spot a Problem

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah. Some of those sound extreme, to put it lightly, but the point is is very well-made. And now, the flipside of that is we don’t do that, but we’re running through the Costco parking lot, and see a child or a pet in a car, in a hot car. And, I guess, two situations. One, they look like they might be in distress. Two, they don’t look like they’re in distress. What’s the play there? I mean, is there … Because it seems that maybe there’s just more media, more of us, talking about it. Is it that, that there’s more media talking about it, or is it that law enforcement is getting more attuned to it, and taking a more proactive approach as well?

Doug Shupe: Well, what we’re seeing nowadays is more people taking a cellphone video of it. And you’re seeing that on social media a lot where somebody will be walking through a parking lot of a discount store or a grocery store. They see a pet, or they see a child in a car, and they pull out their mobile device, and they’re taking video of it. And so, your best bet is to call 911 immediately because you don’t know what the condition is of the child or the pet inside of the car. So, you want to alert first responders right away because you don’t know what kind of condition they’re in and what they’re going to need when they’re pulled out of the car.

Call 911 for Instructions

So, a lot of people wonder, “Well, should I break this window? Should I help get this person, this child, or this pet out?” The best thing to do is call 911, and then follow the directions of the operator because they’re going to be able to ask you questions based on their training, and they’re going to be able to gauge what kind of condition the child or the pet is in, and be able to guide you appropriately. But, regardless, you’re going to want to have those first responders already en route.

Tom Smith: Right, right, yeah. And some kind of authority figure because I know with my luck, I’d break a window, and just be in the process of helping when the vehicle owner and caretaker of the child and/or pets come, and then I’m in trouble, and there’s a situation.

Doug Shupe: You’re right. Call 911 first and foremost. And remember that animals are equally impacted by the summer heat. Dogs are not able to sweat like humans do, but instead cool themselves off by panting and by sweating through their paws. If they only have hot air to breathe, then they can collapse, suffer brain damage, and die of heat stroke.

Prevention Planning is Key

So, prevention is key. Just avoid heat stroke by never leaving children, pets, elderly, anybody inside of a vehicle for any amount of time. A lot of people think, “Oh, I’m just going to run into the store for a couple of minutes.” But, you know, here in Southern California, we know that within minutes, the interior temperatures of cars parked in direct sunlight can reach up to 133 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature is 90 degrees.

Tom Smith: That’s crazy.

Doug Shupe: That’s an incredible hot box. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

Tom Smith: Yeah. And I fancy myself pretty darn responsible, especially when it comes to all things getting behind the wheel. And even I, you know, raise my hand, within the last two weeks, guaranteed, my dog, our dog, who’s a family member, without a doubt, Mr. Jake, he’s waited in the car while I’ve run in for ramen. And I’ve been able to watch him the whole time, and he’s been able to see me. But, nevertheless, something that needs to stop happening. And thank you for that information.

So, okay. So, that’s hot temperatures. And on to hot temperatures as it pertains to maintaining our vehicles. You were giving me some pretty interesting stats about blowouts and a huge percentage of calls that you guys got for the first weekend in July due to the heat.

Summertime Vehicle Safety 

Doug Shupe: Yeah, that first big weekend just right after the Fourth of July, that Friday after the Fourth of July, when temperatures in the valley were about 115 degrees. We saw that our roadside, AAA Roadside Assistance calls here in Southern California increased by more than 30% during the peak daytime hours from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The primary reasons were vehicles overheating, and then also flat tires and blowouts that were happening on these hot freeways all across Southern California. We had 3000 emergency roadside service provider trucks out there rescuing our members, getting people back on the road as quickly as possible. But, you know, a lot of people think that, really, the winter can take a toll. You know, if you’re in extreme winter conditions-

Tom Smith: Sure, sure.

Doug Shupe: … then, that really takes a toll on your vehicle. But summer’s high temperatures can take a toll on everything in your vehicle. Extreme heat can push your car past its limits. You really want to make sure that your battery is prepared for the high temperatures. Battery problems don’t always occur in the winter. Summer can have a more negative impact on your battery than freezing winter temperatures because heat and vibration are the battery’s two worst enemies. The heat’s going to happen. We can’t do too much about the heat, but what we can do is make sure that, you know, that our battery is securely tightened. It’s fastened down, that it’s not vibrating because that really does damage your battery.

Proper Maintenance – Keep (or get back) On Schedule

And, also, you know, another problem is faster evaporation in the summer heat of battery fluid, which leads to corrosion on the terminals and connections. So, you need to make sure that you’re cleaning off those terminals and connections regularly. Any corrosive buildup from the battery terminals and the cable clamps, make sure that that’s cleaned up because if not, it’s just going to cause your battery to deteriorate.

Tom Smith: Now, battery, and fluids, and that kind of thing, those are going to pertain to older cars. Newer cars, not so much. But when we’re talking about air in the tires, which was actually a surprising stat to me, and I fancy myself, as I said, pretty knowledgeable about things on the road. The blowouts that you mentioned, that was a little bit surprising. And I have newer cars because I lease, but I notice having to put air in my tires just as it was starting to get warm again. And tell me, what was that set again?

Pay Extra Attention to Your Tires

Doug Shupe: Yeah, regular maintenance on those tires. On the whole vehicle, whether it’s a newer vehicle or an older vehicle, making sure that it’s well maintained before you travel is critical. And when it comes to tires, a lot of people are driving on underinflated tires out there. When you drive on underinflated tires, that can cause your tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout, especially when the temperatures are extremely high like they are in the summer.

You want to check your car’s tire pressures, at least, once a month because tires typically lose about one pound of pressure per month through normal seepage. And so, you want to make sure that you’re checking those tires when the tires are cold. Always follow the inflation pressure recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual or on the tire information label located in the glove box or on the driver’s door jam. But, really, those hot roads out there and under-inflated tires can really cause a blowout very quickly.

Tom Smith: Doug Shupe, thank you so much. That’s Doug Shupe, the Senior Public Affairs Specialist here at the Auto Club of Southern California, a.k.a, most of us know you guys as AAA. Thanks so much for joining us. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thank you for listening.