Dubai Police say negligent parents regularly leave their children in cars to run errands

Police committee says installing a child safety alarm in passenger vehicles will reduce the number of accidents and deaths

Parents who endanger their children’s lives by leaving them in a locked car could face a Dh1 million fine and a 10-year-prison sentence. Reem Mohammed / The National
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Irresponsible parents in the UAE leave their children in parked cars under the blazing sun while they run errands, Dubai Police said.

Officials said figures showed 53 children were left alone in vehicles in 2020, and about four cases are reported each month.

Temperatures are about 38°C in June, and it can reach more than 48°C inside a locked vehicle in just 10 minutes.

"Negligence by parents, who underestimate the risk they are taking, is behind the incidents we deal with," said Lt Col Abdullah Bishwa, head of Dubai police's land rescue department,.

Lt Col Bishwa said leaving a child unattended, whether through neglect or a mistake, is inexcusable.

The police official said the reaction of some parents on being confronted by officers was shocking.

"Some were very anxious, but others were very relaxed about it, saying that no harm had happened to the child," he said.

"In some incidents, where we needed to smash the window, parents insisted we wait for them to get a spare key."

However, Lt Col Bishwa said that police efforts meant "no child was left alone for more than 10 minutes".

Children rescued in Dubai

In 2020, the police rescued 14 children left in cars in Al Barsha, 11 in Bur Dubai and eight in Al Rashidiya, with the remainder in other areas of the emirate.

This year, 12 incidents were reported to police up to February 17.

Sometimes, children get trapped in cars while playing, Lt Col Bishwa said.

"Some parents leave their cars unlocked while parked in front of the house and also leave the keys inside."

A Dubai Police committee considered introducing technology to save children from being left in hot cars.

“The committee discussed approaching car manufacturers about installing a child safety alarm in all new passenger vehicles,” Lt Col Bishwa said.

Saleh Jafar, president of Yasa Gulf for Road Safety in the UAE, said ultrasonic motion-sensor technology can detect if a person is left behind in a car.

"If a child is left in the car, this technology will activate an automatic horn that will start honking, or even prevent the car from being locked," he said.

But Mr Jafar said installing these systems can be expensive and that the focus should be on educating parents and carrying out safety campaigns.

"I believe not many people will opt for alarms unless the regulators or the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology make it mandatory," he said.

"We can increase awareness by posting large numbers of signboards in multiple languages across shopping centres, school and nursery zones and grocery stores."

In June 2019, a six-year-old boy was found dead in a Dubai school bus after being left inside.

In another incident, a two-year-old boy was admitted to hospital in Sharjah after nearly dying from heatstroke. The child had been left in his father's car.

In November 2019, two brothers, aged one and three, died after the parked vehicle in which they were left went up in flames outside a gift shop in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Port area.

Parents who endanger their children's lives by leaving them in a locked car could face a Dh1 million ($272,255) fine and a 10-year prison sentence.