How to avoid locking a child in the car

Moving Well | RACV | Posted on 26 November 2018

Distraction is often the cause of locking a child in a car. Our tips will help you avoid it. 

Distraction can be deadly on the road, and off the road it can cause drivers to lock their keys, and sometimes a child, inside their car.

In an RACV survey taken last summer, 47.5 per cent of respondents who had locked themselves out of their car said that they were distracted by their phone or talking, or accidentally left their keys either in the boot or a bag.

“Accidental lock-outs can happen to anyone, any time, anywhere,” says RACV’s manager of safety and education, Elvira Lazar. “Memory slip-ups are natural, and it is common to forget where our keys are.”

In 2017, RACV rescued an average of four children trapped in cars every day, with the vast majority of incidents accidental.

Elvira says that even on mild days, the temperature inside a parked car can be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than outside. Most of this temperature increase happens within minutes. Young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than older children and adults, so if they are accidentally locked in a car, this can be dangerous for them.

Check keys check kids

Tips to avoid locking your children in the car

  • Wind your windows down before putting children in the car in case the car automatically locks
  • Never give your keys to children to play with because they can accidentally lock the car
  • Avoid getting distracted when you’re loading and unloading the car, and
  • Have an easy way to hold on to your keys to avoid locking your keys in your car this summer.

The science of forgetting

Short-term memory is used temporarily to store information for a short period of time. It is how we are able to remind ourselves to take our wallet before heading out of the house or remember where we put our keys, explains RACV’s Elvira Lazar. 

“Studies have shown that our short-term memory store can hold only five to nine things at a given time. If we multi-task and think about multiple things at once, some items begin to be forgotten – in what researchers call memory decay.

“When people are distracted, tired or stressed, memory decay is faster and more likely. This is a natural process of short-term memory and it happens to everybody.”