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Over 8 million parents leave their kids in the car

By Kyle Lindsay
Friday, August 28, 2015 - 10:00

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New research from Kwik Fit Insurance Services has today revealed that almost one quarter (24%) of UK parents – equivalent to 8.1 million people – have left young children alone in the car in the past whilst out running errands. As we hit the peak of school summer holidays the UK, research has also revealed that while parents generally leave their children for only a few minutes, they can often return to interior damage, car alarms going off or fist fights!

Among those parents who have left children in cars it appears that dads are a little more relaxed, leaving their children alone in the car for as long as 27 minutes. Mums, on the other hand, are slightly more ‘responsible’, only nipping out for a maximum of 17 minutes.

Doing quick tasks and sleeping children were the top reasons for leaving the kids in the car, although it seems that younger parents have a sometimes more casual attitude in the reasons for leaving the children behind. Amongst parents aged 18-34 who left their children in the car alone, one in six (16%) locked them in as a punishment and, even more worryingly, over a quarter (28%) left their children behind because they forgot about them.

Top five reasons for leaving children in cars amongst all UK adults
I was doing a quick task e.g.  filling the petrol tank/nipping out to the shops 56 %
Child was sleeping 38 %
Child wanted to stay in the car 33 %
I thought they were old enough to stay in the car on their own 31 %
I was in a rush and didn’t have time to get them ready 14 %


The youngest age on average that all UK parents leave their children alone in the car is 7 years, but it seems that younger parents are more trusting of their younger children. According to the findings, among those who have left children in the car alone, parents aged 18-34 have on average left children in the car from the age of 5 years, two years younger than the national average.

It seems that for those parents who leave their children in the car alone, many come back to chaotic scenes. The most common mishaps that parents come back to include siblings fighting (15%), tears (13%), beeping the horn (13%) the car alarm going off (11%), sick to clean up (10%) or even a flat battery from children messing with the radio (10%). When parents leave their children they appear to be flipping a coin, according to the research, with half (50%) encountering some sort of mishap as a result.

Jason Banwell, Managing Director at Kwik Fit Insurance Service said: “Whilst parents admit to leaving children in the car sometimes, and it may make life a little easier in the short term when mums and dads are rushing around as part of busy family lives, there is an important safety issue to consider. Making sure your car is secure and a safe environment is one way to protect your children as much as possible, but to avoid the chaos that may take place whilst unattended, take care not to leave children for too long, and too often.”

Richard Curtis, Parenting Expert and ‘Kid Calmer’ said: “The results of this survey are very shocking. Whilst it is not appropriate to take a child out of a car whilst filling up with petrol, there are many other times where the children should go with their parents. There are a number of hazards that could pose a risk to children in an unattended vehicle, plus, as this report shows, siblings will often bicker or fight.

Children left alone in an enclosed space with a sibling will often get bored or frustrated with them, especially left without an activity to do. My advice would be to never leave children under the age of 12 unattended if you haven’t got line of sight to them, and even then not for more than a few minutes. Whatever parents decide, having some games and activities in the car is only ever going to be beneficial to keep little people occupied.”


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