'Pop it in your pocket' while juggling car keys and kids this summer

The NRMA is urging motorists to remember to “pop it in your pocket” when juggling car keys with kids this summer after a 21.5 per cent surge in unintentional lock-ins caused by people accidentally locking keys and loved ones inside cars in October.

NRMA data revealed October to be the busiest month so far in 2020 for Roadside Assistance callouts to rescue babies and children locked inside vehicles, with 164 calls in NSW and the ACT. Over the past 12 months, more than 1,500 babies and children and more than 1,400 animals have been rescued by NRMA Roadside Assistance patrols from locked vehicles.

An experiment conducted by the NRMA over three consecutive days in November showed the inside temperature of a locked car increased from 24 degrees Celsius to 42, from 28 to 48 and from 29 to 43 degrees all within less than an hour.

NRMA Road Safety Expert Dimitra Vlahomitros said the experiment should serve as a very serious warning to parents.

“On the 28 degree day the inside temperature reached 48 degrees but our camera overheated at 45.5 degrees and stopped working – fortunately this was an experiment and not a real-life scenario with a child in that seat,” Ms Vlahomitros said.

“Parents need to be reminded that although it’s tempting to leave the kids in the car while quickly grabbing a coffee or paying for petrol, the risk of an accidental lock-in is too serious. If a child is stuck inside a car while the temperature is rapidly rising, they can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and even die from organ failure,” Ms Vlahomitros said.

NRMA Roadside Patrol Kosta Karavanas said he had noticed an increase in parents accidentally locking kids in cars with keyless entry features.

“With some car models, as soon as the key is inside the car and the door is shut, the car automatically locks, leaving shocked parents outside and children or pets inside,” Mr Karavanas said.

“Even if you don’t think your car will self-lock with the key inside, don’t put yourself in the situation to find out, especially when kids are involved. We can’t always rely on technology to work.

Mr Karavanas suggested these top tips to avoid accidentally locking kids and pets in cars:

  • Open the windows before you put the shopping, kids or pets in the car
  • Before buckling the kids into seats, pop the keys in your pocket
  • If no pockets, put it on the roof as the car won’t start without the keys inside

“As soon as a call is made to the NRMA about a child locked in a car it’s immediately put to the top of our job list, regardless of whether they are Members or not, and we’ll get the car open within minutes,” Mr Karavanas said.

Parents are also reminded that leaving an unattended child locked in a car under any circumstances is illegal with fines of up to $22,000 under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.