Child safety around cars

Children in hot cars

Leaving a child in a car, even for a few minutes, can cause life-long effects and can be fatal. The risk of heat exhaustion is higher for babies and children than for adults. There is no safe amount of time to leave a baby or child in a car. 

Children are more vulnerable to heat

The body temperature of babies and young children rises three to five times faster than older children or adults. Although taking babies and young children to run quick errands can take extra time, it can be lifesaving.   

It may seem safe enough to leave children in the car for an errand as the engine and the air-conditioning have been on and the car seems cool. Once the engine is turned off, even a cool car rapidly heats up. Cars are not well insulated, and sunlight exposure will quickly heat the car temperature by up to 30 degrees higher than the outside temperature.   

Within the first five minutes of closing your car doors, the temperature inside can increase by as much as 75 percent. Leaving the windows down slightly has little effect on the inside car temperature with large cars heating up just as fast as smaller ones. 

Always check the back seat before leaving the car. 

Dangerous distractions

Routine activities, such as driving to work or grocery shopping, can become so familiar that we almost do them without thinking, making it easier for other things to distract us. Even a slight change to a routine, like dropping a child at daycare on the way to work, could be forgotten as it is outside of the norm.

Our brains can even create false memories that the child had already been dropped off. This loss of awareness or memory is known as fatal distraction, and it can happen to anyone. It could have fatal consequences if a child is left in a car.

Hotter temperatures can also reduce focus and increase irritability, disturbed sleep, and brain fog. Long-term symptoms of COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms. 

Research suggests using cues and reminders to reduce the risk of fatal distraction. However, if the reminder or cue is forgotten, it becomes difficult to remember the task.

To combat this, we’ve developed a car-key tag as a reminder that prompts you to check for your baby in the back seat every time you take your keys out of the ignition.

Order the wrist strap lanyard

Child car seats and restraint fitting

Children are best protected when they are in the correct child car seat for their size and age. Child restraints must meet Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754, to be approved. 

It is recommended that child car seats are fitted by an authorised restraint fitter or at an authorised restraint fitting station. Child car seats must be properly fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The correct use of a child car restraint reduces the risk of death in a motor vehicle accident by up to 75%. 

Guidelines for the use of child restraints and seatbelts are based on age, size, and weight. The types of restraints include:

  • rear-facing child car seat or baby capsule
  • forward-facing child car seat or baby car seat
  • inbuilt harness
  • booster seat
  • anchored safety harness
  • seatbelt.

In NSW children under 7-years old must use an approved suitable child restraint when traveling in a vehicle. If a child is 7-years or older, they can wear a seatbelt, however, the suggested minimum height to use a regular seatbelt is 145cm. If a 7-year old child does not meet the minimum height requirements an approved booster seat or anchored safety harness must be used.  

Children under 7-years old should not sit in the front seat of a vehicle, some exceptions are permitted.

For more information on child car seat rules and exemptions visit the NSW Child car seat website.

Safety tips to check your child's car restraint

Everyone traveling in a vehicle must wear a correctly fitted seatbelt or child restraint. To ensure your child is safe and comfortable during your car ride, check: 

  • your child’s harness is done up firmly, if you can pinch the straps, then the harness is too loose and needs to be tightened
  • the anchorage points and the top tether straps are firm and not twisted 
  • there are no twists in your child’s car seat harness
  • your child’s car seat harness does not rub on exposed skin 
  • the child restraint is age and size-appropriate and change to a new child car seat or restraint when required
  • manufacturer installation instructions if the car seat is moved.

Driveways and reversing cars

Driveways and garages can be an unexpected danger for many children. Children are curious and every environment can be a play environment in their eyes. 

Due to a child's small size and unpredictable behaviour it can be difficult to see them in reversing mirrors, cameras, and even with the newest car safety technology. Young children are at increased risk of driveway injury or death.

Tips to prevent driveway accidents:


Always supervise your child around the home and driveways. Children can very quickly run into a driveway, get locked in a car, or get out of the house if people are continuously going outside and inside the house.  Consider trying the following to keep children safe:

  • hold their hand firmly when they are near vehicles, driveways, roads and car parks
  • if there are no other adults around and you need to move the car place your child in their car seat before moving the car
  • always check where children are before moving in and out of garages and driveways
  • when leaving the house always shut and lock external doors so children cannot get out without supervision
  • set rules with children so they do not go around cars or driveways without supervision 
  • don't allow children to play in cars.


Where possible fence or separate play areas from driveways and garages.  Driveways should not be used as play areas. Make sure your child doesn’t have access to the driveway or garage by having locked doors or gates. 

Try to have a safe outdoor play area away from driveways, or create a safe fenced-off area for play. 


Children can move quickly and are not always seen, even with reversing sensors and cameras in vehicles. Always:

  • check blindspots, reverse and side mirrors
  • use car safety technology like reversing cameras where available
  • check where children are at all times before moving a vehicle
  • drive slowly in and out of driveways and garages
  • decrease distractions such as loud music and phone calls when reversing or driving into a driveway. 

In 85% of driveway accidents, the driver is unaware there is a child in the area near the vehicle.

Road rules and active transport

As children grow, they will have more responsibility and independence. Making sure children know, understand and practise road safety, as pedestrians or cyclists, will help keep them safe.  

Road safety

Try the tips below to ensure children are safe around roads and moving vehicles: 

  • up to at least the age of 8-years old, hold a child's hand when crossing any road, this includes car parks and driveways
  • teach your child to stop, look both ways and listen to make sure the road is clear and safe before crossing any road 
  • always make sure a child is wearing a correctly fitted helmet when riding a bike, scooter or other wheeled micromobility toys
  • up to at least 10-years old only allow children to cycle in safe off-road areas away from vehicles and driveways and actively supervise them
  • under 16-years old children make sure children avoid riding on the road.  

Active travel refers to walking, cycling or scooting as a mode of transport to and from places. Active travel can be a safe, fun and healthy way to increase a child's daily physical movement and can have benefits for the whole family. 

For more information on road rules visit NSW Transport - Riding and walking website.

Did you know?

Children who cycle or walk to school have improved concentration, lasting up to 4 hours after the activity.

Tips for active travel

  • Be a role model for active travel, where possible walk with your child to school
  • Identify active travel facilities and routes to local pools, parks, shops and school
  • Park further away or get off the light rail one stop earlier from your destination and walk the last part of the journey 
  • Discuss with other parents or teachers at your child’s school the option for a walking bus for children in the same neighbourhood
  • Take part in Walk Safely to School Day and Ride 2 School Day 
  • Walk or wheel once a week 
  • Consider public transport options as it usually includes some walking to and from a destination 

See Simple steps to increase kids movement for more information.

Last updated Friday 10th May 2024