The NRMA has issued a grim warning ahead of summer, after a decade-high number of callouts to rescue kids and pets from locked hot cars.
The association said that a majority of the incidents were accidental, but stressed just how quickly temperatures can amplify inside of a locked car.
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NRMA Roadside assistance has this year responded to 4265 calls where a child or a pet has been stuck in a car, the highest number in a decade.
“That’s (over) 4200 people that didn’t think this would happen to them,” NRMA road safety expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said.
The temperature inside a hot car can almost double the outside temperature and cause serious injury and death within a short amount of time if a child or a pet is locked inside, the NRMA said.
“It’s actually quite dangerous, it doesn’t have to be a really hot day for temperatures to rise in a car,” Vlahomitros said.
“On a 20C day, the temperature inside a car can double and that can have devastating consequences.
“Everyone has gotten in their car after a warm day and felt the scorching heat in the car, or the burn of their seatbelt. It’s a recipe for disaster if a child or pet is accidentally locked in this situation.
“Children can dehydrate really quickly, and not only is it really distressing for the child, it’s really distressing for the parent.”
Of the thousands of call outs, the vast majority have been accidental.
Most occur at shopping centres and at households, after locking keys in the car, or when technology malfunctions.
“The reminder for parents and drivers out there is don’t rely on your car’s technology. You always think is will never fail, but it often does,” Vlahomitros said.
NRMA roadside patrol officer Tony Tamine said he most commonly sees keys locked in the boot.
“With keyless entry you can unlock the boot but the doors remain locked,” he said.
The NRMA prioritise these incidents, with patrols dropping whatever job they are currently at to attend immediately. “In most cases we will arrive within 10 minutes,” Tamine said.
“You don’t need to be a member, it’s for NRMA members and non-members alike to call in if they need to.”
He warns that if the situation is particularly distressing, however, to first call triple-zero.
“After ten years and almost 100 times it’s still distressing for me,” Tamine said.
Getting into good habits
There are good habits that motorists can take to prevent accidently locking a child or a pet inside a car.
Vlahomitros gave her top three tips to get in the habit of:
1. Wind the window down where possible.
2. Leave the door slightly open.
3. Know where your keys are at all times.
“If you’re loading the kids in the car, or putting groceries in the boot, make sure you know where your keys are. Hold them in your hand, or place them in your back pocket,” she said.
If a child does become locked in the car, Tamine said it is common for parents and carers to become more distressed that the child, but children can quickly become distressed by the reactions they witness.
“Just stay calm and even try to keep a smile on your face if you can,” Tamine said.
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