Leaving children in hot cars
Never leave your child alone in the car, even for a moment. If you have to leave your car for any reason, always take your child with you.
Parked cars can get hot very quickly. Even on cool or overcast days or when the car is parked in the shade, the temperature inside a car can rise to dangerous and even deadly levels very quickly.
If your child is unintentionally locked in a car or you see any child left unattended in a car, call for help or notify someone straight away. If the child looks hot or distressed, call 000 immediately. You should also call local roadside assistance for help.
Heatstroke and other facts about children in hot cars
Here’s what you need to know about children in hot cars:
- On a hot day, the temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 40°C hotter than it is outside. On a cool day, the temperature can be over 20°C hotter. And most of this temperature rise happens within the first five minutes.
- Overheated cars can cause children to suffer life-threatening heatstroke, rapid dehydration, suffocation and death.
- Deaths from heatstroke can happen even when cars are parked in the shade.
- The younger the child, the greater the sensitivity to heatstroke, and the faster the child will dehydrate.
- Winding the window down 5 cm or so has little effect on rising heat.
- The colour of the seats and interior has no effect on rising heat.
- Large cars heat up just as fast as small cars.
In some Australian states and territories, it’s against the law to leave your child unattended in a car. You can be charged with a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances.
Car travel tips for hot weather
The following tips can help keep your child comfortable and safe when you’re driving in hot conditions:
- Give your child plenty of water to drink during car trips.
- Dress your child in cool, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Check the temperature of car seats, harnesses and seat belts before your child gets into the car. Hot metal, plastic or leather can burn your child. If surfaces are hot, cover them with a damp cloth and then help your child into the car.
- Don’t loosen your child’s harness in summer – it must fit snugly whether he’s awake or asleep. A loose or twisted harness can put your child at risk of injury in a crash.
- Use shades on your car windows to protect your child from the sun if your windows don’t have tinting. Avoid putting a hood or bonnet over a capsule to protect a baby from the sun, because this reduces air circulation.
- On long journeys, plan to stop at least every two hours so everyone can get out of the car and stretch. This includes babies, who can roll around on a rug on the ground.
- Plan car travel for cooler times of day if you can. Cool your car as much as possible before you let your child get in.
Preventing children from getting locked in cars
Sometimes children are locked or left in cars unintentionally. Here are ways to avoid unintentionally locking or leaving your child in the car:
- Don’t let your child play with your keys. Make sure to keep keys out of your child’s reach.
- Keep keys with you at all times to prevent them getting locked inside the car. Think about an easy way to carry your keys, like a lanyard.
- Newer cars often have self-locking features. Wind windows down before putting children in the car in case the car automatically locks.
- Talk to your child about not playing with the buttons inside the car.
- Always keep your car locked when you’re not in the car so your child doesn’t get in on her own.
- If you can’t find a child, always check the car in case the child is hiding inside.
- Find ways to remind yourself that your child is in the car with you. For example, you could put your child’s bag or lunch box on the front seat where you can see it. Or leave something on the back seat next to your child. Choose an item that you’ll need at the end of the car trip, like your phone, wallet or bag.
- Avoid any distractions when loading and unloading the car.
If you need to fill your car with petrol, plan to do this when your children aren’t with you or when you have another adult with you. You could also ask someone else to fill your car for you. Some petrol stations let you pay at the pump or via an app.