The age-old question: should I bring my kids into the petrol station, while I pay?
Nobody seems to know what to do here. While there are obvious dangers to leaving your kids in the car, do those risks outweigh the hazards faced by dragging the kids into the station with you? Many parents will passionately argue either side of this debate. What many aren’t sure about though, is what the law has to say about it.
Should we be leaving our kids in the car, while we pay for petrol? It seems there is no straight answer here.
Each state has a different variation in their laws on leaving kids in cars.
In Queensland, the criminal code, states:
- A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum penalty — 3 years’ imprisonment.
- Whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.
It’s been in Queensland’s criminal code for nearly a decade. In the past, parents could only be punished if their child was injured or suffered neglect by being left unattended.
In Victoria the offence states:
A person who has the control or charge of a child must not leave the child without making reasonable provision for the child’s supervision and care for a time which is unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
In New South Wales, Family and Community Services states there is no law in place that gives a minimum age that children can be left unattended from. However, the law clearly states that parents have a responsibility to look after their kids.
Technically speaking, though, anyone who leaves a child in a motor vehicle without proper supervision is guilty of an offence, regardless of whether or not any harm was done.
Can you, or can’t you?
Leaving your kids in the car, while you’re paying for petrol is a very circumstantial decision. There is no straightforward answer. The laws mostly focus on making a decision that protects your children as best you can.
Shine Lawyers partner and special counsel, Will Barsby explains,
“It all has to come down to each individual situation.”
“The law in Queensland all comes down to reasonableness … so leaving kids inside a car for a reasonable period of time to duck in or out really comes down to each individual circumstances.”
Mr Barsby explains that he likes to use a “sensibility test”. Basically, you need to analyse the circumstances that revolve around your situation at that moment in time.
Regarding leaving the kids in the car to pay for petrol, RACQ’s head of technical and safety policy, Steve Spalding, explains,
“Our advice to parents has always been never leave a child unattended in a car”
“If it’s practical, make other arrangements to leave the child where they’re safer at home rather than putting them at risk of being unattended in a vehicle.”
The temperature in a car can soar
Mr Spalding went on to explain,
“We know from our own testing that a car can go from ambient to 40 degrees Celsius which is considered the risk point, and it can do that in seven to eight minutes.”
Just in case your child somehow gets locked in the car
Stay calm. You can call the RACQ, RACV or RAC. They have the necessary tools to get your child out.
Mr Spalding said,
“If there’s any concern at all the child is distressed or in danger or anything that looks like they may be suffering from heat exposure, just call emergency services straight away.”
So there you have it – we still don’t really know whether or not to take the kids into the petrol station with us.
Filling up the car might just need to stay somebody else’s job. At least, until the kids are over 12!
Think you know all about the safety guidelines for kids’ cars eats? Think again. Read about the push to tighten restrictions on child seats.
The information used for this article were collected from ABC News.