Mum’s the Word: Unsupervised water and hot cars remain big risks to little people

Summer is only a couple of weeks away and we’re already noticing the mercury’s rising.

We're thinking about Christmas, annual holidays, barbecues and cricket, but summer also brings with it some risks we need to keep in mind.

The risk of drowning increases in the summer, as does the risk of serious injury to children who are left in hot cars.

According to the Royal Lifesaving Society, 291 people drowned in the 2016-17 year, up from 282 in the previous 12 months.

There were also at least 685 “non-fatal drowning incidents”, which resulted in varying degrees of injury, from the short-term to permanent.

According to the society, there are an average of six drownings in private pools every year.

Absolutely no one wants this to happen and it never occurs to a single soul that it will happen to their loved one, particularly a child.

It would be wonderful to get through summer without a single drowning, be it on a beach, in a river or in a backyard pool.

The society says “active supervision” of children whenever they are near any kind of water and adhering to safety laws – such as pool fencing – are vital in getting that figure ever closer to zero drownings.

As the temperatures climb, the other big danger for kids over summer is being left in hot cars.

Small children shouldn’t be left in cars unsupervised at any time, but on hot days, it’s an absolute no-go.

It’s said that temperatures inside a closed vehicle can rise to double the outside temperature in just a matter of minutes.

Remember when TV chef Matt Moran cooked a piece of lamb by leaving it in a hot car in the sun?

In fact, according to Moran, the meat was not just cooked, but overdone.

Seventy-five per cent of temperature rise occurs within five minutes of closing the car and leaving it, according to information published by the Department of Family and Community Services.

 Ninety per cent of the temperature rise occurs within 15 minutes.

That means, basically, that on a 36-degree day the car will have reached 55 degrees within five minutes.

Having the windows down five centimetres causes only a slight temperature drop, according to the FACS information.

The example given is that the drop is only from 78 degrees in a closed car to 70 degrees in a car with the windows down five centimetres.

The younger the child, the more vulnerable they are to the heat

In NSW and the ACT, the NRMA rescues an average of six babies a day from locked cars.

Obviously not every child has been left unattended by parents. Most would be accidental and, one would imagine, the scenarios would play out with a frantic adult desperately trying to get the car open and the child out.

But what happens to those children who have been deliberately left? What happens if there isn’t a frantic adult to raise the alarm and get help to a distressed child?

Sure, taking the kids into the supermarket when all you need is bread and milk can be a pain in the neck, but the alternative carries just too many risks. A few extra minutes of inconvenience is simply not worth the risk of serious injury – or worse – to the most vulnerable members of our community.

Jody Lindbeck


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