LOUISVILLE — With frigid temperatures and snow falling recently, AAA East Central reminds motorists that it is never safe to start or leave a vehicle running in an enclosed space, such as a garage. Vehicle exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide gas and can cause severe injury and even death if inhaled.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, more than 50,000 people visit emergency rooms, and more than 4,000 others are hospitalized.

 “Contrary to popular belief, cars are designed to operate as soon as you turn them on and buckle your seatbelt in the winter,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs, AAA East Central. “If you want to warm your car’s interior cabin, or take time to brush off ice and snow, be sure that the vehicle isn’t in an enclosed space.”

 During a winter blast, AAA East Central recommends motorists:

• Never start or operate a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

• Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice, or mud, which could cause carbon monoxide to leak into the vehicle.

• Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.

• Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your car or truck every year. A small leak can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide in your vehicle.

• Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up during the winter months.

• Unplug phone chargers and USB cables for digital devices as soon as you turn off your engine.