Early warning against leaving children unattended in a car

Police Tape

Summer may be a while away but ACT Policing and the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) have issued a joint warning on the dangers of leaving children unattended in a parked vehicle after a three-year-old was rescued from a hot car on Monday (5 October 2020).

About 3.50pm police attended the carpark of a Belconnen business after reports a child had spent more than 20 minutes in the back of a parked car.

A member of the public was able to remove the distressed and over-heated three-year-old from the unlocked car via the window but Belconnen Patrol Sergeant David Wills said the outcome could have been much worse.

“Most Canberrans will be familiar with the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car, but it doesn’t take a 40-degree day for disaster to strike,” Sergeant Wills said.

“It was only about 25 degrees on Monday but the inside of a car sitting in the sun can reach critical temperatures in a matter of minutes.

“Even if you only plan to be away from the vehicle for a short time, a young child can quickly dehydrate and lapse into unconsciousness with potentially fatal consequences.”

ACT Ambulance Service Acting General Manager - Operations said Rebecca Lundy said children are highly susceptible to the effects of heat, and in an enclosed vehicle, this can occur very rapidly.

“While it may be difficult to bring your child with you, leaving them behind in a car is potentially extremely dangerous,” Acting General Manager Lundy said.

“If a child is showing symptoms of dehydration or heat stress it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, cool them by applying cool, wet towels around the neck and underarms and if conscious, to give cool fluids (preferably water) to drink, as soon as possible.” 

It is an offence to knowingly or recklessly leave a child unattended in circumstances or for a length of time that could result in injury, sickness or other danger to the child.

The penalty for this offence under the Crimes Act 1900 (section 39 Neglect of Children) is a maximum of one year imprisonment and/or a fine of $15,000.

Media enquiries

Police Media — (02) 5126 9070, act-police-media@afp.gov.au

ACT Emergency Services Agency media - ESAMedia@act.gov.au