In the hot seat

Don't trap children or pets in the car this summer

AA rescues seven children locked in cars every day in the UK

AA rescues seven children locked in cars every day in the UK

Drivers are being urged to take care not to accidentally – or deliberately even for a moment - leave people or pets alone in the car this summer.

The warning comes as the AA reveals it rescues on average seven* children locked in cars every day.

The AA is called upon to retrieve over twice as many children as pets from locked cars, attending around 213 call-outs per month to free toddlers who have become trapped alone inside the car – often a consequence of central locking when little ones get hold of the keys.

  • AA rescues seven children locked in cars every day in the UK
  • Patrols release more than 1,000 pets from locked cars each year

Getting better?

The number of children locked in cars each year is in steady decline, with a 6% drop in call-outs of this type in January-June 2015 compared with the same period in 2014, and 10% fewer in the first six months of 2016 than 2015.

But it’s a different story with pets. The number of animals left in cars is rising, with 16% more calls to rescue drivers’ furry friends from vehicles in the first half of 2016 compared with the same period last year.

August peak

The data reveals a seasonal pattern of pets trapped in cars during the summer, coinciding with school holidays, with numbers consistently reaching a peak in August.

The dangers are obvious; you only have to touch the dashboard or seats to know how hot the inside of a car can get

Edmund King OBE, AA President

Very high temperatures

Edmund King OBE, AA President, said: “Children becoming locked in the car is usually accidental, but leaving a pet in the car is often done by choice. The dangers are obvious; you only have to touch the dashboard or seats to know how hot the inside of a car can get.

“Children, pets and the elderly are particularly vulnerable as they are less able to cope with high temperatures and may not recognise the symptoms of heat-related illness such as dehydration.

“But it's not just warm days that can present a risk: vehicle glass behaves like a greenhouse which means in sunshine, temperatures can rise quickly inside even if there’s a chilly breeze blowing. So remember not to leave kids or pets in alone the car, because anything can happen.”

Hot enough to cook an egg

Figures compiled by AA technical experts show that, with in-car temperatures on a hot summer's day rising above 60?C, the countdown to death for a family pet can be measured in minutes. It is at this temperature that an egg starts to pasteurise and at just two degrees higher, the white begins to cook. Even when the outside temperature begins to drop, the heat can still continue to increase for half an hour.

Keep cool and carry on

Whenever you travel, but particularly if travelling with children, pets or the elderly, check traffic conditions before you leave and plan an alternative route if necessary, to avoid sitting in queuing traffic for long periods.

Include plenty of comfort stops throughout the journey and allow extra time in case of delays – particularly if you have a ferry or plane to catch.

Try to avoid travelling during the heat of the day and consider using sun blinds on the windows.

Travelling with children

  • Pack plenty of toys and books to keep young children occupied during long journeys, in traffic jams or while you load and unload any luggage or shopping.
  • Never give your children the car keys to play with, as they can easily become locked in.
  • Keep the keys with you at all times and keep a spare set in a safe place or ask a partner or other passenger to hang on to a set.
  • Don't close all the doors unless you are sure you have the keys.

Travelling with elderly passengers

  • Pack personal medication, plenty of drinking water and some food to help replace the salt lost through sweating. Avoid caffeine as this can increase the likelihood of dehydration.
  • Never leave elderly passengers or passengers with a serious medical condition alone in the car, even if it is only for a short time.
  • Be aware of potential signs of dehydration, such as muscle cramps and confusion.

Travelling with pets

  • Never leave your pet alone in the car. Even if it seems cool outside, temperatures in the car can rise very quickly. Parking in the shade and keeping the windows open doesn’t make it safe.
  • Make sure you keep your pet as cool as possible when driving: avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and consider opening a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the vehicle.
  • Pack a good supply of water and know where you can stop off on route for water breaks. Remember, animals are not able to cool down as effectively as humans so they could suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly.

(14 July 2016)

* Daily average based on the number of these incidents attended by AA patrols in 2015.