Crime and Courts

UAE: 10 years jail, Dh1 million fine for leaving kids in locked vehicles

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi Filed on June 6, 2021
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The punishment falls under the UAE’s Child Rights Law.

Parents and guardians who leave behind their children in locked vehicles can face 10 years in jail and fines of up to Dh1 million, experts have warned.

Abu Dhabi Police warned that leaving children alone and unattended to inside vehicles while parents or guardians go shopping or for any other reason is a crime punishable by law.

“It is very dangerous for parents to leave their children in vehicles without adult supervision,” police said. “Leaving children alone inside parked cars in home compounds or in other places is an act of negligence which can lead to serious consequences, including death.”

The punishment falls under the UAE’s Child Rights Law - or Wadeema’s Law - which aims to protect the rights of children, especially their mental, physical and emotional well-being.

“Article 33 of the Child Rights Law talks about child exposure to rejection, neglect and homelessness - it’s about endangering a child’s mental, moral or physical health,” said Haytham Alieh, partner and head of the local litigation team at DWF Middle East. “Article 34 of the same law says it is prohibited to endanger a child’s psychological and moral integrity through the abandonment of the child through his or her custodian.”

The warning is timely.

With scorching temperatures upon us, doctors, traffic and climate experts have warned families against leaving children behind in vehicles as it could prove fatal in the hot summer months.

Leaving or forgetting a child inside vehicles exposes them to heat stroke and suffocation, which can lead to their death in less than 10 minutes, experts said, adding that temperatures can soar up to 60 degrees Celsius in locked vehicles under direct sunlight.

In the past years there have been a number of incidents where parents have unwittingly left behind their children in closed vehicles while they were sleeping in the rear seats after returning home from an outing. Such incidents have also been reported on school buses, and have on occasions led to the death of children.

There have also been instances of children dying after accidentally locking themselves while playing inside parked cars.

In a report in an Arabic daily, Dr. Adel Saeed Sajwani, a specialist in family medicine at the Ministry of Health and Community Protection said: “The habit of forgetting children behind in parked vehicles is a global phenomenon. Statistics indicate that 40 children die annually in the USA due to parents leaving them behind in parked vehicles.”

He added that reports show that 55 percent of parents who forgot their children in vehicles did not expect them to get exposed to such dangers.

“The problem of forgetting children inside locked cars is common, especially among big families, as each member might expect the other to have taken the sleeping child out of the car upon arrival at the destination,” he said. “A child may die if he stays in the vehicle for only 10 minutes because temperatures inside locked cars rise sharply, especially if it is under direct sunlight. Children left alone in such cars may die of suffocation due to lack of oxygen and heatstroke,” he warned.

Jamal Al Amri, a traffic expert, and executive director of the Saaed Association that works on reducing road accidents has also warned of the dangers of forgetting children in parked vehicles.

“Parents should ensure that they don’t leave children behind in parked cars, especially when have traveled with them outside,” he said.

Ibrahim Al Jarwan, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences said that the period from June until the end of August is the hottest period of the year in the Arabian Peninsula. “It is likely that temperatures inside cars can exceed 60 degrees Celsius within just half an hour if temperatures outside are 40 degrees Celsius,” said Al Jarwan. “And if a child, sick person or an elderly person is left inside a locked vehicle for a long time, they might suffer from heat exhaustion and suffocation, leading to their death.”


Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.

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