Have you ever left one or more of your kids in the car unattended while you quickly pop into a store, or to collect something from a friend, or to pay for your petrol at the petrol station? An intended minute or two that has turned into something longer? Is this safe? Is this legal?
Well, no. Firstly, it’s not legal. While penalties vary depending on which state you are in, the general rule is that children should never be left in a car unattended. The only exception could be if taking them out of the car is more dangerous than leaving them in the car – as in a busy petrol station – but, here you should either get petrol when the children are not with you, or pay at the pump.
Secondly, it’s not safe. What happens if your 1-minute errand turns into something more time-consuming? World wide, there are an average of 37 child deaths per year after having been left in hot cars for lengthy periods of time. You cannot assess the temperature outside and make a judgement on whether the temperature inside your car will be safe – a pleasant 20 degrees C outside can reach to up to 60 degrees C inside the car, and can reach 45 degrees C within the first 5 minutes. If it’s a hot day, at say 30 degrees C, you could be looking at 70 degrees C inside the car. Opening the windows slightly will only reduce the inside temperature by a few degrees. The colour of the car, outside or inside doesn’t make a difference to how quickly and to what extent the inside of the car heats up. Even with all of the doors fully open, there are lots of metal fittings inside a car that will heat up, posing a danger to small children.
This is all very scary when you consider that an internal body temperature of 41.7 degrees C is regarded as being lethal for humans. Children’s bodies heat up three to five times more quickly than do adults.
So bottom line – don’t take the chance, even if you believe it will be for only a minute or two – it’s illegal and definitely not safe.