Ballarat children’s lives at risk in hot cars

PARAMEDICS fear Ballarat parents are continuing to put their children’s lives at risk by leaving them in cars.

Ambulance Victoria paramedics were called to 1562 cases of children left in cars last year. This includes 31 call-outs across Ballarat and Maryborough.

Almost 80 per cent of statewide figures involved a toddler.

From these calls, 15 children were treated and transported to hospital.  One in five children required medical treatment.

March chalked up the highest rate of calls for children left in cars with 30 per cent of calls made in October to December, according to new Ambulance Victoria data released this week.

Ambulance Victoria’s state health commander Paul Holman said people still did not seem to understand the deadly risks involved in leaving a child in a hot car. 

“It is never ok to leave a child in a car. Even if you’re just ducking into the shops, you might get distracted or bump into someone you know and time can tick away much quicker than you realise,” Mr Holman said.

“Given how much education there is about the dangers of leaving children in cars, it is disappointing that some people still decide to take that risk.”

Mr Holman said that while some cases paramedics attended were an accident, the danger to the child still remained. 

“That’s 1562 too many,” Mr Holman said. 

“Regardless of if it is an accident or a deliberate decision the risks are the same. It doesn’t have to be a scorching hot day for the car to quickly heat up...You wouldn’t get out of the car after shopping and leave your ice cream in the back seat, so why would you leave your children there.”

Ambulance Victoria tests found on a 29-degree day the inside of a car can reach 44C within 10 minutes and hit 60C within 20 minutes.

Mr Holman urged parents to be mindful and keep their keys in their hand while they are getting children and shopping in and out of the car.

It is illegal in Victoria to leave children unattended in a car. Parents or carers can face fines of up to $3700 or six months’ jail.

Children’s body temperatures rise three to five times faster than an adult, heightening their risk of life-threatening heatstroke, dehydration and organ damage when left in a car.

Victorian Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said there was no excuse.

“Hot cars kill – so there are no excuses, and no exceptions. We know children are especially at risk because they lose fluids quicker, become dehydrated and can suffer life threatening heat stroke,” Ms Mikakos said.

“It is disappointing to see Ambulance Victoria paramedics had more than 1500 callouts for kids being left in cars last year – these numbers represent a loved son or daughter being put at risk of serious injury or death.”