AA warns about accidentally locking cars

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 18:18 25/11/2013

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An inebriated teenager spent the night sleeping in a locked car, then had to be rescued by AA when neither he nor his friends could remember where the vehicle's keys were.

The incident was among four in Auckland during the weekend when the AA was called in to make rescues from locked hot cars. The other three cases involved trapped babies, AA Roadservice national manager John Healy said.

"Yesterday was hot and we received a call during the heat of the day to rescue a baby from a car," Healy said.

"Our service officer arrived to find the baby hot and distressed, and although it only took 20 minutes to locate and unlock the vehicle, 20 minutes is a very long time on a hot day."

The rescued teenager highlighted how anyone could become deadlocked in a car. Without the car keys, some cars had no way of being unlocked from the inside.

The teenager had slept in the car overnight and became dehydrated. It was first thing in the morning when the AA was called in. By the time the car was unlocked the inside of the vehicle had been getting hot, Healy said.

"That could have turned nasty if he had been in there too much longer."

In the three cases of trapped babies during the weekend, the AA was called in by caregivers.

Healy said people became distracted and found themselves locked out of their vehicles, sometimes with young children or animals locked inside.

"My advice is to keep hold of your car keys at all times and never give the keys to babies or young children to play with."

Pets could hit a car's central locking button, while some cars had an auto-locking feature.

"So it pays to have the keys in your pocket."

The AA received more than 900 calls each year involving children locked in vehicles, and more than 600 calls involving animals. It immediately sent a service officer, and if the situation was critical it notified the Fire Service.

"The temperature inside a vehicle can rise quickly even in cooler weather so it's important to phone for help immediately and to remain with the vehicle to monitor the occupants," Healy said.

"If there's anyone else around, ask for support while awaiting emergency services.

"The AA will get there as quickly as possible, but in the case of an emergency or if a child or animal appears to be deteriorating quickly, the window diagonally opposite the occupant is the best one to break.

"But there's an art involved in breaking a car window without the right tools, and without sustaining injuries to the rescuer or the occupant, so it's a matter of weighing up the risk."

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The four weekend incidents ended with good outcomes. No windows had had to be broken.

In two of the cases it had been possible to get a wire through a window to press a switch that unlocked the cars.

"Sometimes we use special tools to pick the locks. Breaking windows is a final resort," Healy said.

The AA would help out if children or animals were locked in a car, whether the vehicles' owners were AA members or not.

- Fairfax Media

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