Summer is upon us and that means Boxing-Day sales shopping, celebrations and family getaways. During this busy time, it can be tempting to leave the children in the car while you run a quick errand. However, leaving children unattended in a car, even for a short period, is dangerous and can be potentially fatal.
Did you know that on a typical summer day the average temperature inside a parked car can be 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature? Large cars heat up just as quickly as small cars, and leaving the windows wound down has little effect on the inside temperature of the car.
Young children are more sensitive to heat than adults; their body temperature can rise 3-5 times faster- this means that they have an increased risk of dehydration and heatstroke, as well as more serious outcomes.
It is illegal in most states and territories of Australia to leave a child unattended in a car, yet every year, a large number of children have to be rescued by respective state and territory emergency services.
These incidents are not always intentional – they can also occur when a parent or carer unintentionally locks the keys in the car while unloading the shopping, or when children gain access to an unlocked car and lock themselves in.
Child safety is no accident!
Leaving a child unattended in a car is dangerous on any day, whether it be sunny, raining, mild, overcast or a scorching summer day. Follow these car safety tips to help keep your children safe:
- Never leave children unattended in a car. If you have to leave the car, even to run a quick errand, take the children with you.
- Get into a routine of looking for your keys when you get out of the car – it can be easy to unintentionally lock your children and keys in the car.
- Use ‘pay at the pump’ service stations where possible, as this will allow you to stay close to your vehicle.
- Lock cars and secure keys when at home to prevent children from playing inside the car.
Children may also become uncomfortable and restless when traveling in a hot car, particularly on long trips. Consider the following tips when setting out on your family holiday this summer to ensure your children are comfortable and safe, and that the journey is enjoyable for the whole family:
- Cool your car down as much as possible before strapping your children in.
- Provide plenty of cool water and fluids throughout the journey.
- Dress children in lightweight and easy fit clothing.
- When planning a long journey, consider traveling in cooler times of the day.
- Plan to stop every 2 hours so all passengers can have a rest from traveling.
- Use a visor or sunshade to protect children from the sun through the car windows.
These tips will help to keep your children safe, but what should you do if you notice another child left unattended in a car?
- Immediately call 000.
- Provide the operator with your location, the vehicle registration number, the approximate age of the child and the condition of the child.
- If the car is unlocked, open the doors and shield windows with a blanket or whatever object is handy and wait for emergency services. Alternatively, safely try to remove the child from the vehicle if you are concerned about the child’s condition- and remember, every second counts.
For more information on the dangers of leaving children unattended in cars, and on safe travel tips, contact your local Kidsafe office www.kidsafe.com.au.
And remember, child safety is no accident!