By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Experts are warning motorists to be cautious when traveling with children and pets as an excessive heat warning is in effect for most of the region. AAA says 52 children died nationwide from heatstroke while inside a vehicle in 2018. That’s a 21% increase from 2017.

There have been 20 vehicular heatstroke-related deaths of children to date this year, according to AAA.

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“It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and become deadly to a child inside. As summer temperatures rise, more kids are at risk,” AAA said.

The body temperature of a child rises three to five times faster than an adult’s and AAA says that even on a 95-degree day, a car can heat up to 180 degrees.

A new Pennsylvania law that went into effect July 15, allows protection from liability for anyone who rescues children from hot cars, as long as they have made substantial attempts to contact emergency responders and the vehicle owner.

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Pets are also at risk for heat-related deaths. Last fall, a similar law was passed, allowing police to enter a vehicle where an animal is seen to be in immediate distress.

“As our forecast brings us highs over 90 degrees for the next few days, the danger is even greater for cases of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Pennsylvania’s new Good Samaritan law to protect children in hot cars,” Jana Tidwell, manager of government affairs for AAA Mid Atlantic said, “and last year’s law for pets trapped in hot cars, will help reverse the alarming upward trend of hot car fatalities.”

AAA suggests motorists to “ACT” as they come up on some of the hottest days of the summer:

A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute.

C—Create electronic reminders or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car – for example, a cellphone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes.  Always lock your car and never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.

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T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1 – if you notice a child unattended in a car.

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AAA held a demonstration Wednesday showing just how dangerous a hot car can be for children and pets.

A tray holding a chocolate bar, chocolate chips and crayons was placed inside an SUV.

The temperature inside the vehicle quickly rose and the items started to bake. In less than 30 minutes, the inside temperature soared to 188 degrees.

“The inside of your vehicle actually becomes an oven,” Tidwell said. “Temperatures upward of 100, 150, 180 degrees in less than 15 or 20 minutes so what happens when that oven is created, essentially the internal organs of a child begin to cook.”

The crayons totally melted as did the chocolate bar. The chips were well on their way to melting as well.

AAA recommends preparing vehicles for the summer months by keeping an emergency kit with a cellphone, car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, drinking water, battery booster cables and emergency flares or reflector in your vehicle at all times.

Experts say extreme heat also takes a toll on vehicles. They recommend keeping track of fluid levels and tire pressure.

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CBS3’s Lauren Casey contributed to this report.