Disease, Fire, Explosions, Death: An “Expert” Discusses Why You Can’t Let Your Kid Wait in the Car


Marisa Quinn, an office worker in Western Australia, sent in this bkrbzkyikz
article about whether you can leave your kid in the car even when just paying for “petrol,
.” The article quotes an expert on child safety, Dr. Claire Wilkin, saying:

“Children can become distressed in a matter of minutes, or even less in the case of babies. Children’s bodies heat up to five times faster than an adult. Children cannot cope with high ambient temperatures as well as adults can, and severe illness can occur much more rapidly,” she said.

Severe illness? Like, what, polio? Malaria? She never says. Why specify when you can terrify with the mantra of our era —

.. And as Dr Wilkin explains, it only takes a few minutes for disaster to strike.

On a roll, Dr. Wilkin added:

“Due to the increased risk of fire at a petrol station, it is unsafe to leave a car running, therefore it is not possible to run the airconditioning to keep children cool. It is also not safe to leave children unattended in a running car even if strapped in restraints, regardless of the location, in case the hand brake were to release or the child was to climb out of the restraint. In addition, in hot weather or cold, if a fire or explosion were to occur in the petrol station, having a child harnessed into a child seat or baby capsule makes it very difficult to rescue them,” she said.

As Marissa, the reader who sent this in, notes:

…I think articles like this need to be more clear about how long children should be left alone for. I’m concerned about this growing trend that children need to be supervised every minute. I have a 19 month old and I often leave her to play by herself in the living room and I might be doing washing out the back or having a shower or watching TV in my room with the door open so I can hear.

Constant supervision is not helping our children. We have to let them learn some independence at SOME point. We have to trust them to be alone at SOME point and know that they will be ok. I live in a country with high temperatures. I would not leave my child alone in a hot car even for five minutes. But on a cool day I would. What worries me about articles like this is that it encourages people to break into other peoples car to “rescue” kids for being alone. If a child is sweating and screaming and crying I would be fine with it – smash the window! sure! but that’s not the case most of the time….People think that any child by themselves is automatically in danger and that they HAVE to swoop in and “save” them and it worries and frustrates me so much. When did we go so crazy?
 Ah, “when” is a long answer. But as for kids in cars, our country and yours have TV. And when we see a tragic story about a child dying after being forgotten there all day, our hearts are crushed (and the network’s rating go up). Our era believes that if something ever happened to any child, anywhere, ever, we must be on guard for all children, everywhere, always. And it becomes our watchword: Never do this or that.
I’d like our watchword to be, “We cannot wait until the world is perfect before we let our kids do anything on their own.” Or before we let OURSELVES make parenting choices that make sense to us. (A long watchword, but, as Mark Twain, if I had more time, I’d make it shorter. Off to give a speech in Houston!) — L.


A tragedy about to strike?

Look! A car that could explode! Take the kids out NOW!!!



74 Responses to Disease, Fire, Explosions, Death: An “Expert” Discusses Why You Can’t Let Your Kid Wait in the Car

  1. Sylv January 21, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    ” In addition, in hot weather or cold, if a fire or explosion were to occur in the petrol station, having a child harnessed into a child seat or baby capsule makes it very difficult to rescue them,” she said.”

    So what is the solution? Remove them from the car seat before you get to the gas station and have them sit on your lap, then buckle them back in when you’re safely out of explosion range? Of course, pumping gas with a baby or toddler on your hip isn’t dangerous in the least, right?

  2. ChicagoDad January 21, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    I had no idea gas stations were so dangerous! Someone should really look into how dangerous these places are!

    Have we no zoning codes? Have we no building codes? No building inspectors? No Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) officials? No state departments of weights and measures? No Fire Marshals? No Fire Departments? No environmental protection agencies? No industry trade associations with safety committees? No company training for station managers? No warning signs about flammable materials? No common sense? No ability to keep things in proportion? No limit to our outrage?!?!?

    My goodness. Clearly the only thing I can do to keep my kids safe at the gas station is to expose them to the most dangerous possible circumstances. All dangers are equally likely, and safety is not relative but absolute except when it’s not.

    The only thing that we can do, and I think our Australian friends should lead the way on this, is to declare tomorrow to be the “international-leave-your-kid-in-the-car-while-you-pay-for-gas-day”. Only then will our elected officials see how dangerous this is and finally use draconian punishments to put a stop to this heinous practice. If it saves just one child it is worth it.

    I repeat, the only way to show the world just, exactly, the level of danger involved is for all of us to leave our kids in the car while we pay for gas. Think about it….isn’t it worth the sacrifice?


  3. Warren January 21, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    Well that settles it. I am never going to Australia. Gas stations exploding? If this is happening enough that it is a real threat and a safety expert cites it as a reason then it is too dangerous for me to even visit.

    Okay now on a serious note. I am so sick and tired of the absolute morons using the car can be put in motion by the child. Even with a manual transmission, if you have parked the car properly, simply disengaging the hand/parking brake will not allow the vehicle to move. And if you do not know how to properly park a vehicle with a manual transmission you shouldn’t be driving, period. Now unless you are driving a vehicle older than dirt, the automatic transmission will not be easily put into gear by a child. Hell I see enough adults struggle with them.

  4. Emily January 21, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    Well, I suppose people who are really worried could use Speedpass, or another similar pay-at-the-pump card, if it’s a big chain gas station, as opposed to a smaller, privately-owned one. But, honestly, I waited in the car at gas stations all the time as a kid, before Speedpass became a thing, and I lived to tell the tale, along with a lot of other people. In fact, I can hardly ever remember my parents bringing me inside to pay for gas, because the counter would be inside a variety mart/convenience store that was full of junk food and pop, and my parents didn’t want to deal with me and my brother begging for a treat. Then again, I didn’t grow up in Australia, but I did live there for two years, and yeah, the summer temperatures can get pretty hot (the hottest day I experienced there was 42 C, and in the 30’s was common in the summer), so I can see taking the kids inside, or keeping the air conditioning on, when it’s hot, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to have a blanket rule of “never leave the kids in the car.” As for the risk of fire or explosion at a gas station, shouldn’t that also make it illegal to leave an ADULT passenger in the car while you go in to pay for gas? People drive, and get gas, in configurations other than parent and child all the time–a husband and wife (or a husband and husband, or a wife and wife), a couple who’s dating, a group of adults on a road trip, a family with both parents there, and one parent goes in and pays for gas, while the other one stays with the kids, or even a parent and an adult child, wherever the cut-off for “adult” is in this situation. That’s another thing–suppose a mom and a dad (or a mom and a mom, or a dad and a dad, or just one or the other, or a commune of polyamorous adults) were driving their newly-minted adult child to university for the first time, and had to stop and get gas? Would they have to bring said adult child inside to pay for gas, because even though they were about to drop him or her off at university to be independent, waiting in the car at the gas station was just too dangerous? The way I see it, if there’s really a clear and present danger of people dying from fires and explosions at gas stations, that’s not a parenting problem; that’s a gas station problem, where the solution would be to fire-proof the gas pumps better, not shame people for leaving their kids in the car for five minutes.

  5. Doug January 21, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Obviously there’s an unreported epidemic of petrol stations exploding around the world.

    There’s times like this that really makes me wish there was a magical necklace that gave an electric jolt to someone just before they uttered anything completely inane.

  6. MichaelF January 21, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    “Children’s bodies heat up to five times faster than an adult.”
    OMG!!! No wonder there are so many fires at gas stations! Must be happening every day!! Better leave your children at home, otherwise when they get distressed FOOMF!!!

    I haven’t looked at the statistics on Spontaneous Child Combustion, but they must be going right up along with those abduction statistics.

    I know my kids love going to the gas station, though they mostly just want to wash the windows…except now my oldest wants to pump the gas. Better they learn now…

  7. James Pollock January 21, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    Listen, I was a documentary about what driving in Australia is like, and, having seen it, no WONDER Mel Gibson came back to the U.S.

  8. Donna January 21, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    I am never one to say the US is so great, but it appears from this article that Australia needs to come see what we are doing at our petrol stations. I have never known a petrol station in the US to spontaneously combust while people were peacefully pumping gas, but it appears to be a common thing in Australia.

    I always like in these articles where the default seems to be that car windows must be rolled up at all times. A child is not going to die in a car after 5 minutes regardless, but if you are so concerned, roll down the windows! If the child would die of heat stroke in a car with rolled down windows while you walk to the store, he would also die on the walk to the store, and really don’t think Australia is that uninhabitable.

  9. BL January 21, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    “I have never known a petrol station in the US to spontaneously combust while people were peacefully pumping gas”

    It happens all the time to me. But I’m an adult, so I remain uninjured.

    (rolls eyes)

  10. That_Susan January 21, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    I was very, very bummed out years ago when all the gas stations in my area became self-serve. I was happy to pay the extra fee to sit comfortably in my car and let someone else fill er up. It sounds like bringing back attendants as an option for those of us who’d rather just sit there and be served could create more jobs, as well as being really a nice thing for parents with small children. And that way if their car blows up, they’ll all be strapped in and blow up together. They don’t let you into Heaven if your kids’ not in a three-point harness, you know. 🙂

  11. Donna January 21, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    “I have never known a petrol station in the US to spontaneously combust while people were peacefully pumping gas

    It happens all the time to me. But I’m an adult, so I remain uninjured.”

    And, of course, your children are covered by the Veil of the Parent’s Presence under which children are protected from harm by exploding gas stations (cars running red lights, trees falling, meteors hitting earth) by the mere presence of a parent or another designated adult present solely for the protection of that particular child.

  12. Backroads January 21, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    I left my two-year-old and 2-month – old in the car last night while I dashed into the store for some diapers. Time gone: less than 3 minutes.

  13. K January 21, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    The sickness thing is extra ridiculous. I’m really really not concerned that my kid is going to get sick, go through all the stages of sickness and then die from that sickness in the few minutes it takes to pay for my gas.

  14. Vicki Bradley January 21, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    I love the facetious comments – got my laugh for the day. Keep them coming!

  15. Warren January 21, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    Let’s give this paranoid safety expert the benefit of the doubt, that petrol stations do in fact explode. Now where would your child stand a better chance of surviving such a disaster. Outside beside or near the pumps, or secured inside a metal box designed to withstand a certain amount of impact? Outside in the explosion and flames, or inside a protected space?

    And let’s face it. It is well known that these explosions only take place when mom or dad is actually inside the station paying. Not while they are pumping, not while they are getting the kid/s out of the vehicle, and not while they are exposed walking to and from the station to pay. Only when the parent is standing at the counter paying.

  16. Emily January 21, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    P.S., I thought of another scenario–parent stays in the car, and child goes in. It could be a scenario where the parent has limited mobility, so the child pumps the gas and then takes the parent’s cash or credit/debit card inside to pay, or maybe they’re not even getting gas; maybe the child is just going inside to use the bathroom or to buy something. If there’s a chance of the gas pumps exploding or catching fire (let’s say the car is parked near the gas pump), then presumably, the fire could spread to the car and burn the adult to a crisp while the child is inside……..IF gas pumps exploded and caught fire on a regular basis. Does that mean that adults shouldn’t be allowed to wait in the parking lot of the gas station without child supervision? Or, what if the adult and the child (or whatever configuration of people) simply parked in a gas station parking lot to get their bearings in a new place, or something like that, and didn’t plan to get out? Surely that can’t be safe either, because of the exploding gas pump epidemic. Or, does the presence of a child and an adult together create a magic forcefield that can’t be destroyed by explosions or fire? This has crossed over the line of worst-first thinking, and entered into “magical thinking” of the highest order. I know I say this a lot, but I think this is sketch comedy material. Actually, that gives me an idea–Lenore, I know Bubble Wrap Kids/World’s Worst Mom is a reality television show, but I think you’d also be good at sketch comedy. You could either do a sketch comedy show as its own show, or at various intervals during the reality TV show, to keep things light, and show those worried parents and adults that they have nothing to be afraid of, by humorously showing them what their fears look like logically.

  17. Another Katie January 21, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Do gas stations in Australia not have chemical fire suppression systems installed in the canopy, like in the US? Those are fairly effective at handling fires that do occur at gas stations.

    According to NFPA statistics, there are an average of 5000 fires and explosions annually at public service stations, but only two civilian fatalities per year. Considering how many vehicle fuelings occur, the odds of any one vehicle being involved in a fatal gas station fire are insanely low.

  18. lollipoplover January 21, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    More likely (statistically) is the danger of children being struck by cars because they are small and hard to see when crossing lanes to pay.

    Exploding cars? Spontaneously combustible babies?
    Sounds like the next Hollywood movie, not the real world.

  19. John January 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    I wish people would use a little common sense here and stop over reacting! Yes, if it’s 90 degrees F. out and you see an unattended toddler strapped in a car seat in an enclosed car without a parent anywhere in sight, then yes, that is cause for alarm. BUT if a car with a toddler strapped in a car seat is pulled up to the door of a convenience store on a 60 degree day but with the windows completely rolled down probably for safety sake, it is highly likely the parent is in the convenience store, which in the U.S. anyways are wall to wall windows, grabbing a quick snack and have their child completely in sight.

    But there always has to be some vigilante out there hell bent on saving the children!

  20. Dean Whinery January 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    There was an “expert’s” statistic a few years ago that said most accidents happen within five miles of home. This led me to believe that we (adults and kids) should stay away from home…maybe send the kids to the store in the next town. Unless they heat up so much that they set of petrol station explosions.

  21. hineata January 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    If a fire or explosion were to occur, wouldn’t the kid be incinerated anyway, negating any need for rescue? I’m sure that’s what happens in Mel Gibson movies, anyway.

    Getting kids out of the car to pay for petrol only really occurs here when you are sending the kid in to pay for the petrol, which I personally can’t recall seeing for a while. Except at the big petrol station in Turangi, where every man and his dog is offloaded to go to the loo etc….it’s about halfway up the island between Wellington and Auckland, and at one end of the Desert Road, so the perfect place for a leg stretch and ‘wee’ break. ☺. The South Island must have something similar, and no doubt Oz and North America do too.

    Geez, since petrol prices skyrocketed a few years back,,the issue for stations has been people driving off without paying, so you can’t even get back in your car and drive forward to the car parks in front to park and pay. You have to leave your car by the pump. I can’t imagine people being too impressed if you proceeded to offload all your kids to trot them into the station, then had to get them all reloaded again before the poor bugger queuing behind you got a chance at the pump….there’d be riots ☺.

  22. Reziac January 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    An out-of-control 18 wheeler might smash through the convenience store’s front wall and smash your kid. Shoulda left him safely in the car!

    Or the sun might explode. Shoulda stayed safely living in caves!

  23. Debora January 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    I bought my daughter a overboard for Christmas – yes, I have been told I am stupid, that my house will blow up in a fire, and that my daughter will be killed.

    She has had great fun; she also takes care not to leave the house when the battery is charging, to wait to charge until the battery is low and to pay attention to pedestrians and cars when riding.

    If we look for danger we are certain to find it some where at one time or another. If we look for adventure, kindness of “strangers” we will also find it more often that we are told it will happen.

    My daughter is 16 and is learning how to navigate her way in the world, learning how to take appropriate “risks” and learning how to be responsible and aware of her surroundings.

    Could bad things happen, yes. Could good things happen? That is the much more likely scenario.

  24. Shawn D. January 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    I agree with the advice on not leaving a vehicle running while refueling. Not only is it a bad idea technically, it’s also illegal in many locales. Diesel vehicles can safely refuel while running, but that’s not really a point for doing so.

    What’s statistically more dangerous than leaving a vehicle running while refueling is static electricity. Either folks do not discharge the static properly (touch the metal around the cap before opening and when filling a gas can, keeping it on the ground and keeping the nozzle in contact with the can) or they re-enter and exit the vehicle (often multiple times), building up even more static.

  25. bmommyx2 January 21, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree that you shouldn’t leave a child in a running car & in California that would be considered an unsafe condition. You are not supposed to pump gas with the car running either they even have warning signs up at the gas stations. Even on a really hot day you can leave the windows cracked or down while you get gas. Personally unless I’m driving on fumes I try not to get gas when it’s very hot for this very reason. Children walking around a busy gas station is much more dangerous than staying in the car. If it’s very hot & I’m out of gas I just get a few gallons & not a fill up as a solution.

  26. sigh January 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    The only points she makes that I can agree with are that a.) yes, a tiny child will get hotter faster, and b.) yes, it’s not wise to leave your child in a car that’s running with the keys in it.

    But she lost me at explosions.

    Seriously. DRIVING TO THE GAS STATION IS MORE LIKELY TO CAUSE HARM than being at the gas station.

    Waaaayyyyy more likely.

    Where is the outrage that anyone puts their child in the car and drives it around in the first place? But don’t take the bus, there aren’t any seat belts. And don’t ride your bike, it’s dangerous to tow your baby behind. And don’t walk, it’s not safe to cross those busy roads, your toddler might bolt and get squashed. Actually, don’t let your child leave the house. Live like the mom and son in the movie “Room.” That’s safe.


  27. Liz January 21, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    Oh no, don’t tell this “expert” that I leave my toddler in my car to both get the mail and to open the garage! Who knows what might happen in those moments!

  28. Liz January 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Wait, this woman’s logic is that it’s too difficult for rescue personnel to get a child out of a car seat, so if there’s an emergency they shouldn’t be in them to start with?! That’s it, no more using car seats! Because if we get into accidents then the first responders won’t be able to get the child out!
    (I have a few firemen and ambulance workers in my family and they have informed me that, contrary to what this “expert” is saying, they are specifically trained to get kids out of those seats quickly. I guess she never bothered to ask one.)

  29. Papilio January 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    “Children can become distressed in a matter of minutes, or even less in the case of babies. Children’s bodies heat up to five times faster than an adult. Children cannot cope with high ambient temperatures as well as adults can, and severe illness can occur much more rapidly,”

    Of course, this would never happen when the car is stuck in traffic. Or does this mean Australia is completely congestion-free, especially on hot days?

    “this article about whether you can leave your kid in the car even when just paying for “petrol,.”

    Because calling it “gas” is so much less confusing when it comes to car fuel… 😐

  30. Caiti January 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Just curious what you have to do in order to be deemed an “expert.”

    I consider myself an expert at raising my son; I whole heartedly believe nobody on this planet could be a better mom to my son than I am. I bet most other parents feel similarly toward their own kids. So why do we need child safety experts?

  31. BL January 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    “Geez, since petrol prices skyrocketed a few years back”

    Here is the US they’ve been dropping like a rock recently.

    Not in NZ?

  32. Ariel January 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    From the article: “Due to the increased risk of fire at a petrol station, it is unsafe to leave a car running, therefore it is not possible to run the airconditioning to keep children cool.”

    Can cars still do the ‘halfway-on’ thing anymore? You turn the key to “ACC” (don’t know what it stands for,) and you can turn on the radio, the air, the power is on to roll down a window, etc., pretty much everything is on but the engine.

  33. James Pollock January 21, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    “Can cars still do the ‘halfway-on’ thing anymore? You turn the key to “ACC” (don’t know what it stands for,) and you can turn on the radio, the air, the power is on to roll down a window, etc., pretty much everything is on but the engine.”

    Can you run the AC without turning over the engine? The compressor is usually tied to the engine, I thought… meaning you could run the fans, which would be cool at first but then slowly warm up to ambient air temperature.

  34. Jessica January 21, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    ACC is accessories, which lets you work the radio and the windows as well as the air, but James is right, the cooling effect well no longer be there, so it’ll blow cool air until that residual effect is gone, and then you’re just pulling in the ambient air.

  35. Warren January 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    KATIE, KATIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where is she? People filling up at the gas station?! This is tailor made for one of her rants.

  36. SKL January 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    And the other article that said you can’t let your kid wear a coat in the car or she will most certainly die.

    So you need to take your kids to the car in coats, take off the coats, strap them in, put the coats over them (ignoring for a moment that those coats would become deadly missiles in the event of a high-speed crash), roll into the gas station, pull off the coats, unbuckle, put the coats back on, drag the kids into the gas station, do your business, drag them back out, take off the coats, strap them in, put the coats over them, drive home, unstrap, put the coats back on, bring them into the house, and take the coats off.

    Parenting made easy!

  37. Warren January 21, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    If anyone here is old enough to remember, the older cars with air conditioning? If you have ever driven one and turned on the air conditioning, you could feel a small drop in power from the engine. The smaller the engine say a 4 cyl. and the power drop was even more felt.

    So yes without the engine actually running, the a/c cannot function. All you are doing is running the fan. Best advice, leave the fan off, and shut your vents to prevent outside air from warming the interior air. Then just open em back up when you are driving. Contrary to many paranoid parents, vehicles are not air tight, no matter how new they are.

  38. Warren January 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm #


    You’ve been reading the shampoo bottle again, haven’t you? Rinse, lather, repeat.

    These people that say they never leave their kids in the car, ever, have obviously never lived in a climate that pretty much makes it mandatory. Middle of our winter, and my wife still doesn’t like to get out of the car. Her idea to stop for coffee or whatever, but it is my job to go out and get it.

  39. SKL January 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    Warren – staying in the car has never been an option for me, except for the times when I can send my kids into the store. Now that they are half-grown, I can often do this, but not always. They aren’t allowed into the rec center without me unless they have a class. “My mom’s parking the car” doesn’t cut it any more. :/

  40. Aimee January 21, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    It’s winter in the Northeast. It’s cold. Darned cold. My 14-yr-old son refuses to wear the parka we bought him (or gloves, or boots, or a hat), so I decided if he’s just not that cold, HE ought to stand out there and pump the gas. The wind chill was below zero, but my, my…. he was happy as a clam pumping the gas, dressed as if it were a beautiful spring day. Meanwhile, I stayed in the driver’s seat…. shivering.

  41. EricS January 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    LOL! More proof of stupid smart people. Just because one is a “doctorate”, doesn’t make one smart. In the sense of common sense and reason smart. Even street smart. When you ONLY educate yourself with theory, specific cases with generalities, and your own biased opinion, you limit yourself in truly educating yourself.

    Sure there is a possibility that a fire can happen in a gas station. A fire can easily happen in the home. In the barn. In the office. In the train station. Anywhere where there is fuel, electricity, and combustible material, there is a chance of fire. Which means parents need to be in constant vigil, 24/7. But will it happen to your child, to you, to your friends at a drop of dime? I would wager a large some of my savings and say “no”. Another example of worse case thinking first. By her reasoning, no child should ever be unattended at any given time. Even when they are asleep. Not just in gas stations, ANYWHERE. Because if it’s not fire, it’s a car. If not a car, it’s an escalator. No escalator? Stairs. We can make ANYTHING very dangerous if so chose to in our heads. Eg. Eating. Very dangerous. Could choke. Taking a bath. Could drown. Walking. Could trip and fall on their heads. Crawling. Can cut yourself. I can keep going on with pretty much anything that exists.

    This fraud should be ashamed of herself. Calling herself an “expert”. Ya, an expert in worse case thinking, and paranoia. lol You need to go back to school Claire…the school of “Life”. Before there were universities, frat parties, and tuition. The human race thrived on real life experience and knowledge. As well as trial and error. Lucky for us, all the trial and error for most things have been had by our parents. Who then taught us as children to watch out, and how to deal with things. Not so much these days. Many want others to tell them what to think, believe and do. Instead of simply just reflecting back to their own childhood, and mimic what their parents did.

  42. Cassie January 21, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    The worst logic ever. Only two real issues are addressed… extreme heat and children releasing the handbrake. Both of these can be addressed. Don’t leave your kid in the car in extreme heat… this is a no brainer for Australians, even the most free-range of us. We know heat, we understand heat, and as a mum I just don’t bother filling up on a hot day (or do it in the cool of the morning, or send my husband to fill up later), it is a rare occasion that I need to fill up with kids in the car when the temperature is high.

    Secondly, get to know your kids. Mine (4 and 6) never ever get out of their seats. They also don’t leave the front yard, and do other things that I ask of them. There is zero chance that my 6 year old will unbuckle herself and release the handbrake (okay 1% chance).

    Both issues addressed… I rest easy knowing that my child will survive me paying for petrol.

    Oh wait, I didn’t address the possibility of an explosion during the 5minutes it takes me to buy petrol…. Seriously… Am I really expected to plan for that? If we are going to go that extreme, we really should begin discussing real risks, such as children dying in car accidents, and then the logical response would be for children to never be allowed in cars at all.

  43. Cassie January 21, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    See, this is the time for me to add my story about leaving my 4yo sitting alone on a train while I took my 6yo to the toilet (at the other end of the carriage, down the steps and through two doors).

    Yes, she could have been abducted by a stranger at that very moment, or she could have taken it upon herself to leave the seat, and roam the train (maybe open the door and throw herself off the moving train).

    But what actually happened was that she sat quietly on the seat until my return, at which point a pair of lovely old ladies said nicely “don’t worry, we kept an eye on her for you”, which was exactly what I expected to happen, considering a carriage full of people had spent the last hour with us.

    I did it again yesterday when my 4yo needed to use the toilet too. This time I was confident that the Middle-eastern man sitting with his daughter asleep on his lap (the one that I had helped when his daughter’s bag rolled into the aisle) would be aware if something unusual happened to my 6yo.


  44. Cassie January 21, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    Read the comments on the article too…. I love Australia, thankfully the nanny state is still struggling to make headway here (it is making headway, but not easily).

  45. Eyes Rolling January 21, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    “…in case the hand brake were to release”??? lol, I bet half of us don’t even know where that is in our vehicles.

    The good Dr. forgot to mention that your child could also get kidnapped by some unknown stranger robbing the petrol station of cigarettes, liquor and lotto tickets and jumping into and taking off with your car while you were too busy pumping petrol and no doubt momentarily looking in the other direction. No doubt the stranger would then be calling you into CPS for letting your child out of your sight, while they’re boozing and smoking down the road in your car with your precious child in the back seat!

    Those damned petrol stations all need to get shut down! Let us all get back on our bicycles again and pedal our way where we need to go!

  46. m January 21, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

    I grew up in the 60s. Our cars and houses didn’t have air conditioning. We lived in hot locations, where the outside temperatures could easily get into the 90s and 100s.

    According to this, kids growing up in the 50s, 60s and 70s should have been dying of heat exhaustion at every stoplight. Heck, they could even die inside their own homes, because of the lack of air conditioning. Funny, I don’t remember that happening.

  47. m January 21, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    After 50+ years on the planet, I’ve never, ever seen a gas station blow up, except in the movies.

  48. sexhysteria January 21, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    Bicycles are safer and cheaper, as well as being good exercise.

  49. Beth January 21, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    Sorry to be dense, and I have to make this quick because there are some kids on my lawn, but what is a handbrake? Is that the same thing as the emergency brake?

  50. Puzzled January 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

    If things are exploding, what exact difference does the parent’s presence in the car make? Are parents explosion-shields?

  51. James Pollock January 21, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    “According to this, kids growing up in the 50s, 60s and 70s should have been dying of heat exhaustion at every stoplight. Heck, they could even die inside their own homes, because of the lack of air conditioning. Funny, I don’t remember that happening.”

    Well, in terms of deaths, it turns out that old people are more likely to die, of both heat and cold. People look after the babies, but assume that old folks can care for themselves. That said, there ARE medical studies available, if you care to look.

  52. MichelleB January 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Children can become distressed in a matter of minutes? They can also become distressed while in Mommy’s arms.

    Who are these people who always get gas and run errands while their children aren’t with them? When my kids were tiny, I could count the number of times I left the house without them in an average year on one hand. Luckily for me, we live in a state that doesn’t let people pump their own gas and I knew which gas stations wouldn’t make me get out of the car to pay. The handful of times I got it wrong, I did leave kids in the car and kept an eye on them. I don’t think it ONCE crossed my mind that the gas station might explode or burst into flames.

    I did see a man last month who left his three young children in the car at the pump while he walked off of the gas station’s property to smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk — after being told he couldn’t stand by the pump and smoke. I’m sure those kids weren’t in any danger, but it was sure rude to the other folks waiting to get gas.

    There ARE lots of grey areas. A busy truck stop isn’t the same thing as a little station with two pumps. A ten year old isn’t the same as an adventurous preschooler or a newborn. If I’m the only one at the small station, I’d absolutely leave my baby in the car while I walk ten or twenty feet to pay inside. If it’s a busy place with a huge parking lot, and what I expect to be a long line, I’d probably choose to bring the baby with me. Those are my comfort levels.

  53. Owen Allen January 21, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

    I always thought it was the Psychologists role to point out where ‘crisis’ thinking was occurring, not encouraging it. I can’t remember ever hearing of a child in car at petrol station incident in Australia EVER. The key incidents that have happened here around children being over-exposed in Australia have been around gambling addicts who have gone off gambling for a number of hours with their children in the car. Now that is a real risk which cannot be eliminated by law because cognitive failure cannot be prevented in that way. To eliminate the real risk, identify at-risk parents through specific behaviours. If the ‘penalty’ fr identifying that a person has at-risk signs is that the person or people are obliged to be assessed and ‘trained’ it may allow families to report the at-risk behaviours they see. That we penalise as the only response is meaning that risk behaviours are hidden until too late.

  54. hineata January 21, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

    @Warren – what’s an old car, out of interest? Mine is 20 years old, and it’s the latest I’ve driven (I mean the earlier ones were ’89 and ’91 ). It’s also the only one I’ve had that has air conditioning..the others were ‘wind down the window’ for climate control. I ask because it certainly loses power somewhat when the a/c is on, something I only seem to remember when trying to gun it past a truck …Do newer cars not have this issue?

    @Papilio – sorry if I was the oddball using the word petrol…it’s just what we call it down here. I have trouble associating the word gas with the liquid I pump into the tank ☺.

    @BL – price has gone down quite a bit here, yes. It’s just it almost doubled over the space of a year or so about four or five years back (?), and after a spate of petrol thefts the stations started changing processes. No more driving away from the pump till you pay, they have to activate the pump from inside, Yada, Yada. ..

  55. Jens January 22, 2016 at 5:39 am #

    Uh…so yeah, during a conflagration at a gas station i totally would want my kid to be standing right next to me at the pump, fully exposed to the flames…riiiiiiight!

    Oh wait. Not. The inside of the car is quite certainly the safest place of all.

  56. Jens January 22, 2016 at 7:13 am #

    I can’t resist…:


  57. Warren January 22, 2016 at 8:34 am #


    Basically the vehicles new enough to be running a serpentine belt that runs everything on the engine, a/c, alternator, steering, fan, and the lot is new enough that you shouldn’t feel any difference between running and running with the a/c on.
    It was the older vehicles where everything was on separate belts that tended to be the ones where you would feel the power difference.

    Now that said, if you have a vehicle with a serpentine belt system, and you are feeling the power difference, that could be a symptom of your a/c compressor starting to fail, and should get it checked out. If your a/c compressor fails, it can cause you to damage or lose your serpentine belt. Lose that and you ain’t going any further.

  58. Donna January 22, 2016 at 8:37 am #

    As an aside to this comment, I’m amazed at the number of people here who report going into a store to pay for gas to even make this a consideration. I haven’t paid for gas inside a store even once in the last 20 or so years.

  59. That_Susan January 22, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    @Jens: “I can’t resist…:


    I love it!

  60. lollipoplover January 22, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Thank you for sharing that. I will be singing that song all day long.

    I still can’t figure out how these experts can attach this extreme danger to children over pumping gas. Besides, most explosions are a result of static electricity or idiots smoking at the pumps. There is a remote chance of this happening (and I would think that removing bundled toddlers out of cars would actual increase the static electricity..) Around my area, the more common danger at gas stations is armed robbery. I never go inside to pay (unless it’s a Wawa because coffee) and pay at the pump because its so much more convenient.

    Another “expert” warning about that terrible danger to our children- SNOW!
    Don’t stick your tongue out!!! You will DIE!!!


  61. JKP January 22, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Donna – the article is from an Australian news site. Several comments at the end of the article seemed to suggest that Australia doesn’t have pay at the pump. Or maybe very few stations have it. Can anyone from Australia comment on whether pay at the pump is common enough in Australia to make this a nonissue?

    Also, even in the US, I’ve driven through many rural areas that had old pumps predating pay at the pump, so you had to go inside in those areas too.

    Even with pay at the pump available, you need a credit card/debit card, and I’ve met a surprising number of people who don’t have either (usually after some kind of financial difficulties, bankruptcy, etc) and use only cash for everything. Or even if you have the plastic, many stations offer a cash discount.

  62. Rachael January 22, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    So, if having them in their car seats is dangerous while getting gas because of the risk of fire/explosion… Should I unbuckle my four kids each time I pull into the station?
    If I leave them in the car unbuckled they will mess with buttons and might disengage the parking break (which of course I would engage).
    I guess I could have them stand next to the pump, but that would put them right where the explosion would occur.
    Then, I should put them on the opposite side of the car, where they will be shielded from a fiery death. But, now they are out of my direct sight again and my 1 and 3 year olds would not be content to just stand there which would make them more likely to get run over. Especially when it is showy or freezing. Which, if it is freezing, I shouldn’t leave my one year old on the ground in an iced over lot.
    I guess I have to take them into the store. But there again, out of my sight when I go to get gas…. Ahhhhh, what’s a mother to do?
    Oh, I know, I’ll just have to hire a baby sitter (who I have finger printed and hired a PI to follow around) to watch the kids every time I need to go get gas.
    Yep, that’s it! Or how about a licensed day care right inside the gas station! I mean, it’s all about the safety of the children.

  63. Anna January 22, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    “@Warren – what’s an old car, out of interest? Mine is 20 years old, and it’s the latest I’ve driven (I mean the earlier ones were ’89 and ’91 ).”

    Like me, I believe Warren is from Ontario, where cars rust out very very fast due to the salt used on the roads in winter. A 10-year-old Ontario car typically has big sections of the bottom edge of the body falling off due to completely rusting through.

  64. Warren January 22, 2016 at 10:58 am #


    Yep, Ontario born and raised. Wouldn’t live anywhere else.

    Though when I talk about older and newer vehicles I am usually basing it on generations of technology. Such as the serpentine belt, or fuel systems or safety features.

    Always been one to regularly rust proof my vehicles, both personal and business. So much so that I have a deal with a local service station that allows all our vehicles to go through for a was every second day in the winter. With the personal and company vehicles they give us a bulk discount, and legit right off on the business.

  65. Jeremy January 22, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    I’m really getting fed up with all of these petrol stations exploding when I’m just trying to refuel. I’ve taught my kids to wait outside the car, opposite from the pumps, so that when these situations arise, the car shields them from the brunt of the explosion. Since we’ve started doing it this way, the worst injuries we’ve had are burst eardrums, and my oldest is tall enough that some of his hair got burned.

    Last month, before we instituted this system, three of my kids were killed and 2 permanently maimed in a gas station explosion, and in the past 12 years I’ve lost 17 children this way, so burst eardrums are a huge improvement!

  66. Donna January 22, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    JKP – Yes, I do understand that many people still pay for gas inside, however, it being a common thing among the main audience of parenting articles (generally middle class women of child-bearing age) would surprise me. Maybe in Australia, but not in the US.

  67. that mum January 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    “If there is anything that this horrible tragedy can teach us, it’s that a male model’s life is a precious, precious commodity. Just because we have chiseled abs and stunning features, it doesn’t mean that we too can’t not die in a freak gasoline fight accident.”

    –Derek Zoolander

    sorry folks, could not resist. That tells you the mentality of concern for this issue.

  68. SKL January 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    Paying inside might also be because you wanted to pick something up at the attached convenience store, or ask directions. While I don’t know if I’ve ever done it, I can see leaving your warm, comfy, sleeping kids in the car while you go out into the elements for 5 minutes.

  69. Warren January 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm #


    Yep. The places I fuel up have a Tim Hortons inside. Fuel, lottery tickets and coffee. One stop shopping.

  70. Cassie January 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    re: pay at the pump.

    In Australia most services stations (petrol stations) don’t have pay-at-the-pump.

    There is one place near me that has it, but it is so foreign that I have never used it, mostly because you have to pay first, and I have never remembered to do that. But that is the only service station I have ever been to that has pay-at-the-pump, not even the big ones I visit on the way to Sydney have it.

  71. Papilio January 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    @Hineata: After years of watching Top Gear, I’m pretty sure the Brits call it petrol as well – I was kinda mocking Lenore for implying ‘petrol’ is such a weird word for this type of car fuel, while ‘gas’ supposedly is not. I agree with you the word ‘gas’ is confusing, especially considering the third type of car fuel at most benzinestations ( 😀 ) here is LPG: liquified petrol gas…

    Re: old car, my parents drove a 1960s car when I was growing up in the 90s… Which explains why I stupidly, thinking of hot summer vacations in France in that car, completely forgot about ACs… 😐

  72. LTMG January 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    You know, all of these bad things can also happen to adults.

  73. Surani January 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I really don’t think you can safely hold on to more than 2 small children while walking across a parking lot.

    And you can’t leave them at home alone to get gas late at night.

    So I guess single parents with 3 or more small children can’t drive anymore.

  74. Kris January 28, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    I have a 4 month old and a 2 year old. I use a particular gas station where there are 2 gas pumps right by the door. If I can’t get either of those pumps I try back later. I leave both kids in the car, go in to pay, and pump the gas. The gas pumps are under a canopy so the car does not get hot. I can’t even imagine having to take them both out to get gas. First I would have to keep the 2 year old from touching the candy display since he is deathly allergic to peanuts. The danger from him being exposed to peanuts and going into anaphylactic shock again is much greater than the danger from sitting in the car in my opinion. Yes, he has an epi-pen.Then I would have to somehow hold both of them while pumping gas since my 2 year old isn’t great at staying by me yet. This would expose them to gas fumes and car exhaust. They would also be more likely to be injured in the unlikely event that another car caught fire since they would not have the shelter of being inside my car. If my car were to catch fire I can remove them quickly especially since my 4 month old is in a carrier style infant seat (it latches to a base). My 2 year old is in a standard 5 point restraint that is pretty easy for me to operate.
    I always worry that someone will call the police or child protective services on me for doing this. I am getting the back windows tinted to 5% limo tint so people can’t see in. That is literally the only reason I’m having them tinted that dark.
    By the way, little kids should be strapped into their car seats tightly enough that they can’t climb out. If they aren’t strapped in tightly they can be ejected from the car seat in a crash. Once they are old enough to unstrap themselves they need to have been taught when that is ok and when it isn’t. Just sayin…