Kids trapped in cars spark 81 emergency calls

DANGEROUS: A toddler freed from a car holds onto her mother as a police officer looks on, in an incident on the Princes Highway at Fairy Meadow in February. The car became accidentally locked with the girl inside.
DANGEROUS: A toddler freed from a car holds onto her mother as a police officer looks on, in an incident on the Princes Highway at Fairy Meadow in February. The car became accidentally locked with the girl inside.

NSW Ambulance has issued a warning after more than 80 incidents of children trapped in cars were recorded in the past three months.

Babies and small children are unable to regulate their body temperature as efficiently as adults. They absorb more heat from the environment than they can dissipate.

Brian Parsell

Since September 1, paramedics have been called to 81 cases children trapped in vehicles - an average of about one child a day.

This includes incidents involving a child and a 12-month-old girl at Fairy Meadow and Keiraville, respectively, last month.

There were similar cases involving two children who became hot and sweaty in a car at Sutherland on November 8, a three-month-old baby at Mount Annan on November 3 and a two-year-old who became distressed in a South Nowra incident on November 14. On October 26, a 12-month-old girl also locked herself in a car at Nowra. 

NSW Ambulance Chief Inspector Brian Parsell said temperatures inside vehicles could reach well over 50 degrees.

“I recorded the temperature inside a car for some internal research last summer and it reached 78 degrees in just minutes,” he said.

“Babies and small children are unable to regulate their body temperature as efficiently as adults. They absorb more heat from the environment than they can dissipate.

“This situation can quickly cause damage to body cells leading to unconsciousness, shock, organ failure and death. Even in milder temperatures, children and babies can get sick very quickly.”

Inspector Parsell attended an emergency at Glenwood on Christmas Eve last year, when a three-year-old girl died after being left in a car.

Chief Insp Parsell said no matter how quick a person thinks they are going to be, they should never intentionally leave a child – or pets - unattended in a car.

NSW Ambulance Inspector Alan Morrison said modern car security systems contributed to many unintentional cases. “If you leave the key fob in the car and shut the door, or you don’t know the key’s inside, they lock themselves,” he said. 

“Even on a day like today – it’s 23-24 degrees – it’s still dangerous to leave a child or a pet inside a closed car, which will get dangerously hot, very quickly.”