Those working in the early years sector are being called on to help increase parents' and carers' awareness of the potentially deadly risks of leaving children alone in cars this summer.
Research shows that the temperature inside a parked car can be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than outside.
With children's body temperatures rising three to five times faster than adults', children left alone in cars — even on mildly warm days — can quickly suffer serious heat-related injuries or even death.
Large cars heat up just as fast as small ones, and leaving the windows down slightly has little effect on the temperature inside.
The Victorian Government's latest Never Leave Kids in Cars campaign calls on those who work with children to help spread the message that "our valuables should never be left in the car".
The message around children as 'valuables' aims to remind parents to take children with them every time they get out of the car, just as they remind themselves to take their everyday valuables.
Information packs with a sample poster, brochures and a fact sheet are being sent to early childhood education and care services, Maternal and Child Health services, and the health and human services sector. Staff can also download materials on the Never Leave Kids in Cars page.
The campaign also raises awareness about how parents and carers can unknowingly leave their child behind in a car. Known as 'fatal distraction', this can happen when parents or carers are exhausted, stressed or have a change in their routine.
While it is difficult to tell parents and carers to remember something they don't know they have forgotten, you can encourage them to introduce positive routines that will make checking the backseat an entrenched habit.
Practical suggestions include:
- leaving an everyday item, such as a bag, phone or wallet, in the back of the car
- placing their child's bag in the front seat
- keeping a stuffed toy in the child's car seat and placing it in the front seat whenever the parent puts a child in the car
- creating a mental list of the things to check each time they leave the car, for example baby, keys, wallet, phone
- using a mirror for rear-facing car seats to remind parents that their child is in the car.
All services are encouraged to display the posters, distribute the brochures and talk about fatal distraction within their communities.
To download additional resources, see:
- The temperature inside a parked car can be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than outside.
- Young children are very sensitive to heat as their body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's.
- Up to 75 per cent of the temperature rise happens within the first five minutes of the car door being closed.
- Large cars heat up just as fast as small ones.
- Leaving the windows down slightly has little effect on the inside temperature. When car windows are left open by 10cm, the inside temperature is only five degrees cooler than with the windows closed.
- In Victoria, it is against the law to leave children unattended in a car. Parents or carers could face fines or up to six months' jail, or both.
- Anyone who notices a child left alone in a car should phone 000.
For more information on child and car safety, see: