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Kidsafe and MFB Alert on Children in Hot Cars

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21 Jan 2008
Kidsafe Victoria today issued an urgent red alert to parents about the dangers of leaving children in cars on hot days which can result in death or serious brain damage.

Dr Mark Stokes, President of Kidsafe Victoria said tragically in the past children have died from being left in cars and over summer children's lives can be endangered within a couple of minutes during a hot day. “Our message is clear: take the children with you. Hot cars are killers.”

"The temperature inside a parked car during the Australian summer can be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the outside temperature."

"On a 29 degree Celsius day a car can reach 44 degrees in just 10 minutes and a deadly 60 degrees in 20 minutes. Leaving the window down a few centimetres does little."

“The smaller the child, the greater the risk. A young child will quickly dehydrate, lapse into unconsciousness and may never fully recover. A child appearing to be sleeping, not moving or showing little distress might be more dangerously ill or closer to death than a distressed child screaming for attention,” said Dr Mark Stokes.

"Each summer, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Melbourne’s various emergency services attend numerous call outs to provide life saving care to young children left in cars" said MFB Director, Community Safety, Keith Adamson.

From January 2002 to October 2007, the MFB has attended 779 incidents since January 2002, where a child or children had been locked in a parked car and required extraction from the vehicle.

“While a large percentage of these cases are unintentional, there are still quite a few incidents where the parent or guardian has intentionally left the child, or children, in the vehicle unattended for a significant amount of time,” he said.

The MFB advises bystanders to call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Fire Brigade if they notice a child has been left in a car on a hot day.

Kidsafe’s Dr Stokes also advises that if the car is unlocked, bystanders should open the doors and shield the windows from the sun – possibly with a blanket or sheet - and wait by the vehicle until emergency services arrive.

"Parents should ensure their children have plenty of fluids to drink during hot days and importantly under no circumstances should motor vehicles be used as a babysitter," Dr Stokes said.

Kidsafe Victoria also calls for Multicultural Agencies to assist in spreading the safety message to new migrants to Australia and non-English speaking families, who are especially vulnerable as they may be unfamiliar with safe car practices and the extreme danger of the Australian hot weather conditions.

The Kidsafe Hot Car campaign launched today in Hawthorn is aimed at reinforcing the need for Local Councils and Retailers to install warning signs at all public and supermarket car parks. This will help to raise community awareness of the dangers of leaving children in cars, especially on hot summer days. To order ‘Do not leave children in cars’ warning signs for your local area please call Kidsafe Victoria on Tel (03) 9251 7725 or email info@kidsafevic.com.au

Children left in a hot cars can be seriously injured or in extreme cases die.

Previous tests conducted by the Metropolitan Ambulance Service on a 29 degree day with the car's air conditioning having cooled the interior to a comfortable 20 degrees showed it took just 10 minutes for the temperature to more than double to 44 degrees and in a further 10 minutes it had tripled to a deadly 60.2 degrees.

Test Results:

Minutes Car Interior Temp Effect on Child
0 min 20 degrees  
10 min 44 degrees Serious Injury Brain Damage
20 min 60.2 degrees Deadly


(The testing was undertaken with a light coloured sedan with windows closed using an electronic temperature sensor in the position of a child's rear car seat).

Metropolitan Fire Brigade will provide advice on the action to take if people see a child in a hot car and will show how to ‘cool’ a young child down.

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