1. Toddlers
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  3. Car & pedestrian safety

Babies and children in hot cars

0-8 years

Never leave babies and children unattended in cars. Even on a cool day, the temperature inside a car can rise to dangerous levels very quickly. If children are left in hot cars, they can be at risk of dehydration, heatstroke and even death.

Leaving children in hot cars

Never leave your child or pet alone in the car, especially in hot weather. If you have to leave your car for any reason, take your child with you.

Parked cars can get hot very quickly. Even on cool or overcast days, the temperature inside a car can rise to dangerous and even fatal levels very quickly.

If your child is accidentally locked in a car or you see any child left unattended in a car, call 000 immediately. You should also call local roadside assistance for help.

Heatstroke and other facts about children in hot cars

Here’s what you need to know about children in hot cars:

  • On a hot day, the temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 40°C hotter than it is outside.
  • Overheated cars can cause children to suffer rapid dehydration, heatstroke, suffocation and death.
  • The younger the child, the greater his sensitivity to heatstroke, and the faster he’ll dehydrate.
  • Winding the window down 5 cm or so has little effect on rising heat.
  • The colour of the seats and interior has no effect on rising heat.
  • Large cars heat up just as fast as small cars.
If you leave a child in the car and she gets sick or injured, you can be charged with a criminal offence in some Australian states and territories, depending on the circumstances.

Travelling tips for hot weather

The following tips can help keep your child comfortable and safe when you’re driving in hot conditions:

  • Give your child plenty of water to drink during car trips.
  • Dress your child in cool, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. 
  • Check the temperature of car seats, harnesses and seat belts before your child gets into the car. Hot metal, plastic or leather can burn your child. If surfaces are hot, cover them with a damp cloth and then help your child into the car. 
  • Don’t loosen your child’s harness in summer – it must fit snugly whether he’s awake or asleep. A loose or twisted harness can put your child at risk of injury in a crash. 
  • Use shades on your car windows to protect your child from the sun if your windows don’t have tinting. But note that putting a hood or bonnet over a capsule to protect a baby from the sun reduces air circulation.
  • On long journeys, stop every two hours so everyone can get out of the car and have a stretch. This includes babies, who can roll around on a rug on the ground. 
  • It’s sensible to plan car travel for the cooler times of day. Cool your car as much as possible before you let your child get in.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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