September 21, 2015

48% of mums believe it’s ok to leave children unsupervised in a car for a short time, Ireland’s largest parenting community issues a nationwide appeal to mums to remind them of the dangers of leaving children unsupervised in the family car. The warning arises from the recurring reports of parents leaving their children in cars in the USA or worse still forgetting about them. However, over the weekend fresh reports of this activity came from closer to home when The Voice of Ireland judge, and S Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens shocked shoppers when she left her two young children in the car unsupervised for 10 minutes, while she ran errands in London.

New research from reveals that nearly half of mums (48%) surveyed condone the practice of leaving children unaccompanied in a car if it is ‘only for a short time’, while 55% of mums describing this type of behaviour as ‘commonplace.’

While no parent wants to wake a sleeping baby, leaving young children unaccompanied in a car even for ‘just a few minutes’, it is dangerous and the results can be potentially fatal. Since MummyPages’ research highlights just how common this practice is here, the online parenting community wish to inform and educate parents as to just how unsafe it is to leave a young child unaccompanied in a car.

Over half (52%) of Mums object to leaving children in cars unaccompanied because:
 It’s dangerous (88%)
 It’s morally wrong (62%)
 Its compromises the safety of the child (58%)
 It causes emotional, physical and mental trauma (44%)

Here are the main findings of MummyPages research:
• 55% of mums would describe the practice of leaving children unaccompanied in a car as ’commonplace’ in Ireland
• 48% of mums think it is acceptable to leave children unaccompanied in the car
• 40% of mums admit to leaving their own child unaccompanied in their car
• 25% of mums feel that any dangers of this practice are completely over exaggerated
• 35% of mums admit to leaving their child sleeping in their car while parked in the driveway
• 75% of mums feel parents who leave children unaccompanied for long periods of time should be prosecuted
• 94% of mums feel the government and retailers need to do more to ensure there is enough family parking spaces available

In April of this year, this issue was again highlighted when Gardai were called to The Square Tallaght after a passer-by heard a child screaming after being left unaccompanied in a car for over an hour. Gardai broke into the car and brought to the child to Tallaght hospital to be assessed before being taken into State care, before it was then reunited with its distraught parents.

Another case In the UK, saw father Tim Haines arrested and prosecuted for leaving his two year old daughter unaccompanied in a car while he went to buy the children’s medicine Calpol. While there have been no reported prosecutions in Ireland, according to MummyPages’ research, three out of four mums are calling for parents to be penalised if found guilty of leaving children unattended for a long period of time.

MummyPages research has identified a number of factors contributing to this issue, with 9 in 10 mums (94%) insisting that retailers and government need to do more to ensure there is enough family car park spaces available, making it easier for mums taking children in and out of their car seats.

The top four reasons given by mums for leaving their children unaccompanied are:
 I will only to be gone for a short time (61%)
 I didn’t want to wake my child (56%)
 My older children were looking after the younger children (32%)
 It’s too much hassle taking the children in and out of the car (26%)

Commenting on the findings Laura Haugh, Mum-in-Residence for MummyPages said:

“Most parents have wrestled with their conscience when they have a sleeping child or more than one child all strapped safely in their car seats and they just need to jump out of the car for a minute or two. However, despite the inconvenience, unbuckling or indeed waking a sleeping baby, really is the safest option. The potential dangers are plentiful including; choking on food or a toy with nobody to hear them, another car crashing into the parked car, heatstroke, a break-in to include kidnapping or carjacking, the hand brake being released unknowingly by a child out of their seat, and so many more.”

“The public plays an important role when it comes to protecting children, if they see a distressed child alone in a car it is in the child’s best interest to take action. Standing next to the car for a few minutes, while another person attempts to locate the parent in the local shops should be the first course of action before then calling the police. Any use of force to break into the car through a window should only be done in an extreme emergency situation.”