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Leaving a child in a locked vehicle can be life-threatening, say Abu Dhabi Police Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: As temperatures continue to soar across the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Police have warned motorists against mistakenly leaving children behind in locked vehicles.

Leaving a child in a locked vehicle can be life-threatening, even when stepping into stores for a quick minute, and this kind of endangerment is a punishable crime that will be referred to the courts, the Abu Dhabi Police has reminded.

Heatstroke risk

The threat to life occurs most often as a result of heatstroke in the majority of cases: within one hour, the temperature inside a car parked under the sun, when outside temperatures are just 35 degrees Celsius, can reach a deadly 47 degrees Celsius. Even temperatures in a car parked in the shade on a similar day can reach up to 38 degrees Celsius within an hour. Heatstroke occurs when a person’s core body temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius for an extended period of time.

Injury risk

The Abu Dhabi Police further added that unattended children in vehicles can also suffocate due to the lack of oxygen circulating inside, cause accidents by tampering with the transmission, or even injure themselves as they try to get out.

“Children are unaware of dangers surrounding them, and leaving children unattended in a car therefore amounts to neglect on the part of families. In order to avoid tragedies, parents must unfailingly check vehicles before locking up, prevent children from playing in cars, and avoid leaving them behind even when stepping into the store for a short while,” the Police said.

Alarming figures

In the United States alone, a total of 884 children have perished since 1998 after being left behind in hot cars. Dubai Police has also earlier revealed that it helps rescue more than 100 children locked inside cars each year, and warned parents against even a moment of such neglect.

A number of fatalities of unattended children in cars have been reported in the UAE in previous years. In November 2019, two Emirati toddlers died in Abu Dhabi after the vehicle they had been left inside caught fire. A six-year-old Asian boy also died in June 2019 after he had been forgotten inside a hot bus in Dubai for several hours.

Stiff penalties

The penalty for leaving children unattended in the car varies from case to case. Zayed Al Shamsi, director of Zayed Al Shamsi Office for Advocates and Legal Consultants, said the penalty is decided by the courts based on the impact upon the child.

“The act of neglect can be classified as either accidental or premeditated, and the courts have the right to evoke either the UAE Criminal Law or the Wadeema’s Law — Federal Law No 3 of 2016 concerning Child Rights,” Al Shamsi explained.

“Wadeema’s Law is more comprehensive when it comes to offences against children, and the penalties are stiff: they can go up to fines of Dh1 million, and a 10-year jail sentence,” he explained.

The lawyer added that strict penalties should be applied when children are left unattended in the car, since children suffer and can also inflict harm on others.