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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There: How to keep vehicle, yourself safe when traveling in high temperatures

A bicycle commuter heads west along Riverside Avenue at Lincoln Street on July 9, 2013.  (COLIN MULVANY/The Spokesman-Review)

Temperatures in cars can rise by 20 degrees in 10 minutes when sitting in the triple-digit heat expected to hit the Spokane area this week.

If someone is sitting in traffic and the car is not moving, people should be aware of the heat and the sun hitting the car for a long period of time, said Mellani McAleenan, AAA Washington public affairs manager.

McAleenan said people should plan their trips ahead of time so they are not sitting in traffic for too long because heat can cause serious damage to car systems.

“Proper maintenance in general is going to be important and one of those things is going to be to check all of your fluid levels before heading out,” she said. “Coolant is going to be the big one on that, so make sure that your coolant is topped off and double check your oil.”

Matthew Conde, AAA Idaho public and government affairs director, said it is recommended to travel during the cooler times of the day because even a fully functioning engine can overheat .

An overheating engine can be a system of low coolant or a loose hose. Conde said if an engine does overheat during a drive, turning on the heat will give the driver and passengers extra time to get to help because it will pull heat away from the engine.

McAleenan said she recommends keeping cars stocked with an emergency kit with jumper cables, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, food and water and other items that might be necessary if someone breaks down on the side of the road.

“I think it’s just important to be mindful, and just a little bit of preparedness can go a long way,” she said. “You can still have a great field trip even though we’re going to be baking in this heat in the next week or so.”

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month because a lot of scenarios involving car theft is a result of someone leaving their car running during hotter days, Conde said.

Drivers sometimes leave their car running when they go into a building during extreme heat so their car stays cool. Conde said this makes the car a target for thieves; motorists should turn off their car and bring their keys with them.

To prepare for driving in hot weather, people can use shield covers to block the sun from their cars and slightly crack the windows to keep the car cool, McAleenan said.

If someone uses a bike rather than a car to reach their destination, the best thing for them to do is park it in the shade to avoid it heating up as much as possible, said Josh Tofsrud, Bike Hub general manager.

Tofsrud said when people ride their bikes in extreme heat conditions, they should keep water on them and make sure they stay hydrated during their bike ride.

“We are designed to sweat and just let that stuff come out. That’s your personal A/C,” he said. “In most cases, you should be able to ride a bike for … 40 minutes to an hour without needing water if you’re properly hydrated, but it is important to be aware of that going into a season like this.”

This week, people who use Spokane Transit Authority buses won’t have to pay fares if they are traveling to a cooling center, including Spokane Public Libraries, if they inform their driver they don’t have money for their fare and explain their destination, according to a Spokesman-Review article.