A minute can’t hurt – can it? The dangers of leaving kids in cars

by | Feb 16, 2022 | Road Safety

As parents, we instinctively know not to leave our children unattended. However, when children are safe and contained in their car seats or a baby is asleep in their capsule, it is very tempting – just for a minute, to leave them where they are. But, it can be fatal leaving children unattended in a car – even just for a minute. Each year authorities rescue over 5,000 children (the majority toddlers and babies) out of cars in Australia. In Queensland, RACQ responded to more than 1900 incidents to unlock kids/pets from cars averaging five calls every day!

Cars get twice as hot in just 5 minutes  

We all know how unpleasant it is to come back to a car that has been sitting in the sun. Compared to the outside temperature, inside the car can easily be 20-30 degrees higher. This means that on an average summer’s day in Australia, the temperature inside the car could be more than 70°C. Within the first 5 minutes of closing your car, 75% of the temperature rise occurs. Large cars heat up just as fast as smaller ones. Leaving the windows down slightly has little effect on the inside car temperature.  

Conversely, children are at risk of hypothermia if left unattended in a car in a cold climate.

What are the risks of leaving kids in cars? 

The body temperature of young children rises 3 to 5 times faster than older children or adults. Young children lose fluid quickly, become dehydrated and suffer from potentially life-threatening heatstroke. With the rise in humidity and decrease in airflow in a closed car, children can also die of asphyxia. 

A child becomes increasingly distressed in a hot car and may attempt to get out of their car seat restraint. If the child becomes entangled then strangulation can occur.

Safety tips

  • ALWAYS take children with you, even if you have to leave the car for just a quick errand. 
  • Do not use the car as a ‘baby-sitter’ substitute. 
  • Never leave children in a car without adult supervision for any length of time, not even a minute! 
  • Lock cars and secure keys when at home to prevent children playing inside the car. 
  • Make ‘look before you leave’ a routine whenever you get out of the car. Parents do forget sleeping children in cars!
  • When a child is missing, check inside the car and the boot of any nearby vehicles. Also check swimming pools or any body of water.

Need some advice? 

Kidsafe Qld’s mission is to provide evidence-based practical advice to empower parents and caregivers to make informed choices to prevent childhood injuries. We are at your service and welcome any questions you might have around injury prevention and keeping kids safe at home, on the road and at play. 
Call Kidsafe Qld: 3854 1829 

ACNC Registered Charity logo

Support Kidsafe Qld – Donate Today

We need your help to continue our important work in reducing the number of accidents and unintentional injuries that put children in QLD hospitals.

With your help, Kidsafe Qld can save children’s lives and reduce the pain and suffering from preventable injuries.