News that a father left his 10-month-old daughter locked in the car on a 37°C day for up to half an hour over the weekend has left many questioning why such dangerous incidents are still occurring.
The baby girl was left in the car park outside Bunnings in Tuggeranong, ACT. She was in the car for an estimated half hour, during which time authorities say the inside of the car could have reached temperatures of up to 55°C.
Passers-by noticed the child crying hysterically in the backseat while her father shopped inside. The window had been left slightly down, allowing the passers-by to force the window open, unlock the door and rescue the girl while emergency services were on their way to the scene.
Ambulance officers were able to stabilise the girl’s condition on the scene, before transporting her to Canberra Hospital.
Members of the public found the father still shopping inside the hardware store. He was then brought out for questioning by police. ACT Policing Operations Superintendent Kenton Turner said that the father had been unaware of the danger he had put his daughter in, and that he was genuinely concerned for her welfare.
Police are still deciding whether to charge the father with child neglect. “Depending on the state of the child … [we] will make a decision at a further date to whether any charges could be laid,” said Superintendent Turner. A charge of child neglect can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.
ACT Ambulance Service acting chief officer Howard Wren spoke about the dangers of leaving young children in unattended cars. “The temperature was around the forecast top of 37 degrees at the time, which means it could have climbed to approximately 55 degrees within minutes inside the car,” he said. “There is no safe circumstance when a child should be left locked in a vehicle, especially on a day like today.”
Earlier this summer a baby boy was left alone in a car in the Westfield Doncaster car park, while his mother attended the Boxing Day sales. Security were able to remove the boy from the car at 10am, half an hour after the car had entered the car park, however, the mother could not be located until 11am, when she spoke to police.
The RSPCA has also released a statement saying it has been inundated with calls this summer from concerned citizens about dogs being locked in cars. They explained that on a 29 degree day, in a car which had been cooled to 20 degrees before being turned off, it takes just 20 minutes for the inside of a car to reach deadly temperatures of up to 60°C.
Read more about the father who left his daughter in the car at the Canberra Times website.
Visit the RSPCA website to find out more about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars.
News stories such as these beg the question; why is this still happening? How are these parents and dog owners so unaware of the dangers? The father who left his daughter in the car had no idea it could be dangerous, and yet there was no mention in the media of his being new to the country.
We live in Australia. Australia gets hot, really hot, every single summer. We regularly and frequently experience temperatures so high they can be deadly to the elderly, the infirm and children. Even the young, fit and healthy can die from heat exhaustion if they aren’t carful during a heatwave. During the 2009 heatwave in Victoria there were 374 excess deaths caused by the heat. That’s 75 times higher than the number of deaths caused by sharks every year.
The state governments and animal rights groups often run campaigns about the dangers of leaving children and animals in cars, as they can heat up so quickly. It seems like it must take wilful ignorance to reach adulthood and parenthood in Australia without becoming aware of the dangers.
It’s not rocket science. Australia gets hot and cars get hotter. Heat can kill, so don’t leave your baby in the hot car.
If you see a child or an animal left alone in a car, call 000 and explain the situation. Don’t spend time trying to find the parent first – it can take just minutes for the temperature in a car to reach deadly highs. And perhaps the police turning up and talking to the car driver will be enough of a wake-up call to ensure the father or mother never leaves their child unattended in the car again.
What do you think? What more can we do to ensure parents and pet owners are aware of the dangers? And should leaving a child unattended in the car incur an automatic penalty?
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