Rise in kids and pets locked in hot cars prompts warning

By Imran Ali

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An increase in the number of pets and children locked inside vehicles this summer has concerned the Automobile Association. Photo / Michael Cunningham
An increase in the number of pets and children locked inside vehicles this summer has concerned the Automobile Association. Photo / Michael Cunningham

An average of three children and animals are locked in vehicles every month in Northland, prompting a reminder for people to be more responsible and caring.

The reminder by the Automobile Association (AA) and Northland DHB paediatrician Roger Tuck follows a 20 per cent increase in children and pets locked inside vehicles in New Zealand this summer compared to the previous summer.

The spike created an increase in AA road service callouts.

Although the figures for Northland are not alarmingly high, the AA says there needs to be greater awareness of the risks posed to children and animals left in vehicles, particularly on hot days.

About 210 children and pets were rescued from vehicles by AA from December 1 last year to January 31 - an increase of more than 20 per cent for the same period last summer.

In Northland, seven have been rescued so far this summer compared with six for the same period last summer.

Between December 2014 and January 2016, a total of 22 children and 21 pets were rescued in the region.

Most were in central Whangarei, at 26, followed by Warkworth where six were rescued in the 13-month period.

Dr Tuck said children should never be left unattended in cars for a number of reasons.

"They don't just potentially boil to death but the more mobile and mischief they can get up to, the more harm they do."

He said there had been instances where children have released handbrakes or have been abducted by people who stole vehicles and later realised the little ones were inside.

"In Northland, a child inside a car with windows up can get into serious health risk within half an hour. As soon as the temperature gets into the 40s muscles in the body start to break down. Don't underestimate how quickly the inside of the car can become lethally hot," Dr Tuck said.

AA national road service manager, John Healy, said the upsurge in incidences was deeply concerning. "These types of lockouts are happening far more often than people think."

Last year, 1500 call-outs were for a child or animals at risk because they were either consciously left in a vehicle, or car keys were accidentally lost or locked inside.

Mr Healy said some people thought leaving windows slightly open would alleviate the heat but it was not a safe alternative.

To call the AA in for emergency assistance, dial 0800 500 222 or *222 from mobiles.

- Northern Advocate

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