By Mitchell Clarke
Alarming new statistics have revealed that the RACV responded to 14 cases of children being locked in hot cars in Pakenham, the equal highest of any suburb across Victoria.
Emergency Roadside Assistance (ERA) patrols responded to 843 calls to rescue young children locked in vehicles across the state from 1 January to 10 December 2019, an average of three lock-ins a day.
It’s understood the majority of these incidents were accidental.
With the weather warming up, the RACV released the statistics as part of their Check Keys – Check Kids campaign, aimed at preventing parents and carers from accidentally locking children in hot cars.
The campaign comes as Victorians brace for warmer summer weather, as RACV testing found vehicles can reach temperatures of more than 70 degrees in just minutes, when the outside temperature sits at about 30 degrees.
“A momentary lapse in concentration combined with sophisticated vehicle locking technology and soaring summer temperatures is a recipe for disaster,” RACV public policy manager Bryce Prosser said.
“Research shows that younger children are more sensitive to heat than older children and adults, as their body temperatures can rise five times faster.
“This means they are at higher risk of dehydration and heatstroke when trapped in a hot car.”
Parents and carers are being advised to wind windows down before putting children in the car, avoid distractions when loading the car and avoid allowing children to play with keys.
RACV ERA patrolman Steven Kendall, who has rescued hundreds of children over his career, said it was important that parents remain calm if they end up accidentally locking a child in a car.
“Knowing the dangers vehicle lock-ins pose to young children, RACV prioritises these call-outs as urgent and we allocate the job to the closest RACV crew,” Mr Kendall explained.
“Once on scene, we attempt to unlock the door with our expertise and tools, but depending on the temperature outside and the make of the vehicle, we may end up breaking a window to get the child out.”
If a child is accidentally locked in a car, people should call 13 11 11 immediately for RACV roadside assistance or triple zero (000) for life threatening emergencies.
The message from Cardinia local area commander inspector Dearne Dummett was simple.
“If you are travelling with a child and you need to get out of the car – even for just a moment – make sure you take your child or children with you.”