Children left in locked in cars

What to do if you see children locked and left alone in a car?

Last week we once again heard of children left in a vehicle in the summer heat. As parents we sometimes do not realise how dangerous this can be. Sometimes we think it will be just a quick, at most 5 minutes, time to pick up or drop off something. This quick 5 minutes can change into a much longer time without us realising how long it has become. In this time so much can go wrong.This can also be classified as child abuse.

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In terms of No.38 of 2005: Children’s Act, 2005 the definition of abuse is as follows:-

“abuse”, in relation to a child, means any form of harm or ill-treatment deliberately inflicted on a child, and includes- (a) assaulting a child or inflicting any other form of deliberate injury to a child;

(b) sexually abusing a child or allowing a child to be sexually abused;

(c) bullying by another child;

(d a labour practice that exploits a child; or

(e) exposing or subjecting a child to behaviour that may harm the child psychologically or emotionally;

“neglect”, in relation to a child, means a failure in the exercise of parental responsibilities to provide for the child’s basic physical, intellectual, emotional or social needs;

The following statistics was taken from the KidsAndCars site:

“On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Even the best of
parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car;
and the end result can be injury or even death”

  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2014: 30 (as of 10/23/14)
  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2013: 44
  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2012: 33
  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2011 : 33
  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2010: 49
  • Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2009: 33
  • Child vehicular deaths through 2013: well over 719
  • Average number of child vehicular heat stroke deaths per year since 1998: 38 (one every 9 days)
  • The highest number of fatalities for a one-year time period took place in 2010: 49

Heatstroke occurs when body temperature exceeds 40°C and the thermoregulatory mechanism, or heat control, is overwhelmed and fails. At a core body temperature of 41.7°C, cell damage occurs and internal organs shut down.
Children’s thermoregulatory systems aren’t as efficient as adults’ and their body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster. A child’s body has a greater skin surface area to mass ratio than an adult’s, which means they absorb heat more quickly. Children also don’t sweat as much as adults do, making them less able to lose heat through evaporative cooling.

Ukukhanya recommends following these steps if you see a child (ren) locked up in a car
  1. Check all the doors and windows to ascertain whether all windows are closed and doors locked. If not lock open up and follow rest of steps. If only open little bit communicate with child to get him/her to open up from inside and continue to follow. If the child cannot be open from inside by child try to hydrate the child while following the rest of the steps.
  2. Take note of the time
  3. Try to communicate with child if at all possible
  4. Get attention of a security guard or any other passer-by’s and also get their details.
  5. Take photos of the doors, kids in car and registration number as well as the licence disc of the car.
  6. Phone SAPS and inform them of the situation and of time you arrived and that you will now be breaking the window of the car. Request them to contact emergency services as well. (ambulance)
  7. Breaking the window rather break big window as this is cheaper to replace than little window and make sure of the safety of the child (ren) and yourself and any bystanders. Take the child to a spot in the shade and give some fluids to take. (preferable water)