Children in deadly peril in hot cars are the cause of an average of more than seven 000 rescue calls a day, despite repeated warnings of the danger and the threat of big new fines.
Worried Victorians seeing kids at risk made 225 such calls in the first month of summer — up from 161 the year before.
And crews of paramedics were called to 13 such cases on each of two days last month.
As Victoria braces for more sweltering weather this week, the State Government renewed its warnings of the risk to children locked in cars.
Acting Premier James Merlino yesterday urged Victorians to take the problem seriously.
“We continue to face hot conditions this summer — there are no excuses for leaving kids in cars,” Mr Merlino said.
In Victoria, laws were changed early last year so that parents or carers who leave children unattended in a car face fines of up to $3700, or up to six months in jail.
It is unclear how many of the new fines have been issued.
A young child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s
Ambulance Victoria’s emergency management director, Paul Holman, said some cases of children being locked in hot cars were accidents, “while others appear to be deliberate”.
“Ambulance Victoria has done tests which show that on a 29C day, the temperature inside a car can reach 44C within 10 minutes, and 60C in 20 minutes,” he said.
“Tragically, we’ve seen three children die in recent years after being left in a car on a hot day,” Mr Holman said.
A young child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s, leading to greater risks of life-threatening heatstroke, dehydration, and organ damage.
In extreme situations over summer, emergency services crews have had to treat dehydrated and weak children on the spot — sometimes by smashing windows to get into vehicles.
The new safety campaign is being jointly run with Kidsafe.
It will include advertisements reminding parents how easy it is to underestimate the time it takes for them to run an errand or duck into a shop.
When you leave your child in a car, you are putting them at risk of serious injury or death
Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said safety campaign material also would be spread throughout kindergartens, general practitioners’ clinics and hospitals.
“When you leave your child in a car, you are putting them at risk of serious injury or death,” she said.
“If you are travelling with a child and you need to get out of the car — even for just a moment — make sure you take your child or children with you,” Ms Mikakos said.
“No exceptions,” she said.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.