UP TO 27 children were locked in cars in Ballarat in the past 12 months, new ambulance statistics show.
Ambulance Victoria says paramedics had 27 cases of patients, mostly children, who were locked in cars between September 2011 and August 2012.
Of those, 12 were in Ballarat central. The rest were in Alfredton, Bakery Hill, Ballarat East, Ballarat North, Golden Point, Lake Wendouree, Nerrina, Soldiers Hill, Wendouree and Sebastopol.
Ambulance Victoria group manager Brett Drummond said leaving children in cars could prove deadly.
“Babies and young children can’t regulate their body temperature like adults can, so being left in a hot car can quickly become life-threatening,” Mr Drummond said.
“Tests by Ambulance Victoria found even on a 29-degree day the inside of a car can heat up to 44 degrees within 10 minutes and reach 60 degrees within 20 minutes.
“There have been cases of children dying in hot cars.”
Across the state, paramedics were called to more than 900 cases of children under 13 locked in cars, with almost one quarter of them occurring at home.
More than 90 per cent of those calls were for children aged under four.
Mr Drummond said some of the cases were deliberate acts, while others were the result of the keys being locked in the car with a child.
“Some people think they can just duck into the service station or a shop and leave their child, but there’s a risk they will be delayed and it’s a risk that’s not worth taking,” he said.
Ballarat Police Sergeant Travis Barber said the statistics reflected only the cases that were reported to emergency services so the number could be even higher.
“We are concerned, not only for children, but for pets that are left in the car,” Sergeant Barber said.
Sergeant Barber said legislation now made leaving a child under the age of 16 unattended in a car a criminal offence, with penalties ranging from fines up to $1652 to three months in prison.