He says that especially around this busy season, it’s easy to become distracted and forget where your car keys are, increasing the danger of accidentally locking children or animals in the car.
“A momentary lapse in concentration combined with sophisticated vehicle locking technology and soaring summer temperatures is a recipe for disaster,” Bryce says.
“Research shows younger children are more sensitive to heat than older children and adults as their body temperatures rise five times faster.” He says this puts them at a high risk of dehydration and heatstroke when locked in hot cars.
Last summer, Metropolitan Fire Brigade crews attended incidents of children trapped in hot cars at a rate of about one a day.
“Each summer firefighters and emergency first responders see a spike in the number of incidents involving children or animals being left in hot cars,” says the brigade’s acting deputy chief officer Adam Dalrymple.
“MFB crews are well equipped and specially trained to unlock doors with a specialist kit but firefighters will break windows if required,” he says.
“The temperature inside a car can double within minutes and can quickly cause heatstroke, dehydration and even death.
“Leaving a child in an unattended car is illegal, it’s dangerous, and seriously irresponsible as the days get hotter.”
Justin Dunlop, Ambulance Victoria’s acting director of emergency management, says many of the incidents are preventable. “Either people forget the child is in the car or they accidentally lock the keys in the car with the children,” he says.
He says it doesn’t have to be a scorching day for temperatures to soar inside a locked car within minutes – making it dangerous to leave a child, pet or elderly person in a car and run into a shop even for a few minutes, he says.
“At 29 degrees the temperature inside a locked car reaches 44 degrees in 10 minutes and a body temperature of 40 degrees is critical,” he says. “After 20 minutes, the heat inside rises to 60 degrees and no one can survive.”
Ambulance Victoria attended 1587 incidents involving people locked in cars in the year to August 2018, and 95 per cent of those trapped were aged under 13.