Never leave children unattended in cars
Never leave your child unattended in the car, even for a moment. If you have to leave your car for any reason, always take your child with you.
Leaving children unattended in cars is dangerous and can be life-threatening.
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.
Accidental leaving in cars: how to prevent it
Sometimes children are accidentally left in cars when parents or carers forget that their child is in the back seat. This can happen to anyone, especially if you’re tired, stressed, distracted or out of routine.
The best way to reduce this risk is by making a safe routine for car trips.
You can read more about accidental leaving in cars and how to prevent it.
Accidental locking in cars: how to prevent it
Sometimes children are left in cars because they’ve been accidentally locked in. Here are ways to prevent this from happening:
- 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 their own.
- If you can’t find a child, always check the car in case the child is hiding inside.
If your child is accidentally 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.
Heat risks for children left unattended in cars
Heat is the main risk for children left unattended in cars. Children can suffer life-threatening heatstroke, rapid dehydration, suffocation and death.
This is because cars can get very hot very quickly. In fact, on a hot day, the temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 40°C hotter than it is outside. When cars are parked, it takes less than 5 minutes for them to heat to temperatures that can seriously harm children.
Cars can heat to dangerous or fatal levels even on cool or overcast days or when they’re parked in the shade.
The younger children are, the more sensitive they are to heatstroke and the faster they’ll dehydrate.
Other risks for children left unattended in cars
Leaving your child in your car can be dangerous for other reasons too. For example, your child could:
- release themselves from their seat, leave the car and get onto the road
- disengage the car’s handbrake, causing it to roll forwards or backwards
- choke on food, a toy or other objects within their reach
- play with the windows and get their limbs or neck caught
- be involved in a car crash
- be a victim of a break-in
- accidentally lock you out of the car.
If you need to fill your car with petrol, plan to do this when your child isn’t with you or when you have another adult with you. You could also ask someone else to fill your car for you. If these options aren’t possible, you can take your child with you when you’re paying or go to a petrol station that lets you pay at the pump or via an app.