Worrying spike in number of kids and pets locked in cars as summer heats up

15 January, 2024

RAA is urging drivers to be extra careful with their car keys this summer, as Road Service data reveals a worrying rise in the number of children and animals needing to be rescued from locked cars in South Australia.

RAA callout data shows a total of 663 kids and pets needed to be freed from locked vehicles by RAA patrols in 2023 – a 29 per cent increase on 2022.

Of the 663 callouts, 308 were children and 355 were pets, equating to almost two loved ones being rescued each day in South Australia.

RAA Senior Traffic Engineer Matt Vertudaches said cars can quickly heat up to more than double the outside temperature.

“You shouldn’t be tempted under any circumstances to leave children or animals unattended in a parked vehicle, but especially not in warm weather like we’re experiencing now,” Mr Vertudaches said.

“In a lot of these instances it’s simply because someone has accidentally locked their keys in their car, which can be easy to do now that many modern cars have keyless entry and ignition.

“We’re pleading with drivers to make sure they’re aware of where their keys are at all times, to avoid accidentally leaving them in the vehicle with a loved one.

“When the weather is warm this is even more vital because the temperature inside a locked car will climb to dangerous levels within minutes, and the consequences of leaving a loved one in there could be catastrophic.”

Drivers are being reminded to keep track of their keys at all times

The data also shows the most common locations for lock-outs last year were larger suburbs including Mt Barker, Mt Gambier and Port Lincoln, followed by Morphett Vale and Murray Bridge.

In-car cabin temperatures can rise to more than 80 degrees within 20 minutes when left in the sun, according to a recent experiment by RAA.

The experiment also showed that white cars – often considered to attract less heat than darker vehicles – still rose to more than 70 degrees in the same period.

“No child or pet should be exposed to those sorts of temperatures, and parking in the shade or winding down windows doesn’t make much difference either,” Mr Vertudaches said.

“If you do find yourself in a situation with a child or pet in a locked car, do your best to remain calm so you don’t distress your child or pet. Act quickly and call RAA, or SA Police in an emergency.”

RAA provides priority service and dispatches two patrol vans to any callout involving a child or animal locked in a vehicle. All South Australians can call for help in this situation – an RAA membership is not required.