Leaving children inside locked, hot cars could kill them in less than 10 minutes: Experts

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Abu Dhabi - Parents have been warned against leaving their children alone in parked cars when they step out for shopping.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Mon 31 May 2021, 5:19 PM

Doctors, traffic and climate experts have renewed the call to families not to forget children behind locked vehicles, especially during peak summer months in the Middle East, which are, usually, between June and August.

Parents have been warned against leaving their children alone in parked cars when they step out for shopping.

The experts have pointed out that the temperature in a locked vehicle, and, which has been under the direct rays of the sun for a long time, can soar up to 60 degrees Celsius (C).

Leaving or forgetting a child inside a vehicle in such extreme hot conditions exposes h/her to heatstroke and suffocation, and that can lead to his/her death in fewer than 10 minutes, experts warned.

The UAE authorities have in the past years reported a number of incidents, where children were left behind in closed vehicles while sleeping in the rear seats after their parents have returned home from an outing.

Such tragic incidents have been reported even inside a locked school bus.

Police have also recorded cases of children dying after locking themselves inside cars parked in their home compound while playing. Such incidents resulted from families neglecting their role of strict monitoring of the children’s movements at home.

In an Emarat Alyoum report, 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 showed that 40 children die annually in the US due to parents leaving them behind in parked vehicles."

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

The problem of forgetting children inside locked cars is common especially among families with a large number of people 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 h/she stays in the vehicle for only 10 minutes because locking the car exponentially increases the temperature inside it. Children left alone in cars may die of suffocation due to lack of oxygen and heatstroke,” he added.

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

“Leaving children inside cars, especially during the hot temperatures, can cause them suffocating to death. Parents should always take good care of their children and ensure that they don't leave them in parked cars,” he said.

He added that it would be imperative to create more awareness among mothers about the dangers of leaving children in parked cars.

June to August is the hottest period of the year

Ibrahim Al Jarwan, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, warned that the period from the beginning of June until the end of August is the hottest period of the year in the Arabian peninsula. "With the increase of the summer heat, it is likely that the temperature inside the car can exceed 60 degrees C within half an hour only if the temperature outside is 40 degrees C,” said Al Jarwan.

"And if a child, sick person, or an elderly person is left inside a locked vehicle for a long time, h/she might suffer from heat exhaustion and suffocation leading to h/her death,” he added.

Leaving children alone in vehicles is a penal offence

Earlier, the Abu Dhabi Police had warned that leaving children alone and unattended inside vehicles while shopping or for any other reason is a penal offence.

The force said this act of negligence exposes the lives of children to danger and that parents who leave them behind in parked cars will be prosecuted for negligence.

“It’s very dangerous for parents to leave their children in vehicles without adult supervision,” police said.

“Leaving children alone inside parked cars at homes or in other places is an act of negligence, which leads to serious consequences such as death,” they added.

Families were also told not to depend on others when alighting from a car, as they might leave children in the rear seat because they would be drowsy or sleeping.

According to legal experts, a person, who is held responsible for causing the death or endangering a child's life by leaving h/her in a locked vehicle, can be penalised with a fine of up to Dh1 million and a 10-year jail term. 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," Haytham Alieh, partner and head of the local litigation team at DWF Middle East had earlier told Khaleej Times.

"Article 34 of the same law says it is prohibited to endanger a child's psychological and moral integrity through h/her abandonment by the custodian. A custodian is defined as the person who is legally liable for the child, or entrusted with the child's care,” he had added.


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