It is part of a child safety campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles
Imagine being locked in a parked car when the outdoor temperature is between 40-45°C. In a few minutes you will experience dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and with significant decrease in oxygen level, the situation could even lead to death.
This was highlighted in a controlled social experiment conducted by Child Safety Department (CSD) in Sharjah, cautioning parents, teachers, and caregivers against the dangers of leaving children unattended in closed vehicles, particularly during summer.
While daytime temperatures in the UAE during summer averaged between 40 and 45°C, inside locked cars, temperatures can quickly escalate by additional 20°C in less than 10 minutes, which is extremely dangerous to anyone.
Leaving someone in a hot car can cause heat stroke with severe symptoms like neurological dysfunction, nausea, disorientation, seizures, hyperthermia, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. This may lead to cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory difficulties, and even death, concluded the 8-hour social experiment called ‘Look before you lock,’ conducted in partnership with Sharjah Police and Sharjah Civil Defence.
How the experiment was done
Adult participants endured confinement for a period of up to 10 minutes in a parked car. The engine was turned off, all windows were closed and there was no air conditioning.
In a few seconds, most participants felt sweaty; in a few minutes, they felt suffocated and as the heat inside the car increases rapidly, they experienced distressing symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, headache, and nausea, coupled with significant decrease in their oxygen levels.
Here is the video of the experiment:
Children locked under this condition will immediately experience heightened blood pressure or decreased heart rate leading to dangerous levels of dehydration, and even death from prolonged exposure.
One of the participants noted: “I gained firsthand insight into the suffering a person will face in such circumstances. There is no room for negligence, forgetfulness, or complacency, and I urge everyone to ‘look before you lock’.”
The experiment was conducted under the close supervision of a qualified medical team, civil defence specialists and volunteers. It was done to send across a strong message.
Hanadi Al Yafei, CSD director, said: “When it comes to child safety, simple warnings are not enough. We understand the challenges parents and caregivers may encounter in trying to gauge the extent of potential dangers of leaving children unattended in locked vehicles. This approach, grounded in practical evidence and live demonstration of the risks, was, therefore, adopted to clearly drive our point across to the public.”
“During the experiment, participants witnessed firsthand the serious consequences or even fatality their neglectful behaviours can lead to,” he underscored, adding: “Such incidents may not manifest immediately but can cause permanent psychological harm to the child, leading to feelings of suffocation in enclosed spaces or even living with brain cell damage caused by exposure to extreme temperatures during the incident.”
Focus on raising awareness
Captain Saud Al Shaybah, director of Awareness and Information Branch at the Traffic and Patrols Department, Sharjah Police, added: (Our) comprehensive approach includes a strong focus on raising awareness of potential child safety risks and taking proactive steps to prevent them by educating the community alongside correcting any negative behaviours in society.”
The experiment is part of CSD’s ongoing ‘Their Safety First’ campaign, a comprehensive year-round child safety awareness initiative. An awareness film featuring footage from the experiment was released to guide parents and caregivers, emphasising the importance of avoiding any similar dangers for their children.
Jail and hefty fines
In April this year, on the first day of Eid, a 3-year-old Arab girl was saved after she was left in a closed car in Ras Al Khaimah. The car’s air conditioner was not working, and the vehicle’s doors and windows were completely closed. Her parents left her in the vehicle and went to visit family to offer Eid wishes. The girl recovered after being admitted to the intensive care unit of Saqr Government Hospital.
In July 2021, an eight-year-old boy in Sharjah child was found dead inside a parked car. The boy was initially found missing but actually accidentally locked himself in the car, according to Sharjah Police.
In 2019, the body of a six-year-old boy was found inside a school bus in Dubai after he was left unattended. A similar accident happened in Sharjah that year, when a two-year-old boy was left alone in a car by his father. The boy survived but had to be treated for severe heatstroke.