Look before you lock, and prevent tragedy, Minister Mikakos says
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers tasked with transporting children have been warned, alongside Victorian parents, to always check all seats in a vehicle before locking it to avoid leaving children behind, particularly when temperatures are high.
The warning comes as the sector faced two separate incidents in recent weeks where children were left behind in vehicles whilst being cared for by ECEC services. The campaign and associated information are valuable insights and reminders to share with parents using ECEC services.
The Victorian Minister for Health, and former Minister for Early Childhood, Jenny Mikakos, announced on Friday that the Victorian Government would again run warnings to prevent “unintentional and deadly memory lapses” using its Look Before You Lock campaign.
The Australian-first campaign, which ran for the first time in Victoria last year, raises awareness about a phenomenon known as fatal distraction – accidentally leaving children in the car.
No parent or educator is immune from memory failure, with greater risk occurring when people are stressed, exhausted or their routine has changed, the Victorian Government said.
Research has shown that human short-term memories can only hold six to eight things at one time. In a statement about the campaign, a spokesperson said “accidentally leaving children behind is not always a case of negligence. It’s a tragic mistake – but with vigilance and the right habits, we can prevent fatal distraction.”
The following tips were offered to parents and educators. In the case of those applying these tips in an ECEC setting, they should be considered alongside law, regulation, and any applicable service policies:
- Always look in the back seat before you lock the car
- Leave your phone, wallet or handbag in the backseat every time you’re in the car
- Keep an object, such as a stuffed toy, in the car seat and move it to the front seat after buckling in your child
- Ask your childcare centre to call you if your child doesn’t arrive on time for childcare
- Set reminders on your phone to check with your partner to make sure they have dropped off the child.
Fact sheets on short-term memory failure with advice on how parents and carers can minimise the risk of fatal distraction have been sent to Maternal and Child Health Services and kindergartens across Victoria.
The Victorian Government’s Look Before You Lock campaign also includes radio and online advertising, billboards on buses and promotion on social media.
For more information about the campaign, visit education.vic.gov.au/looklock.