Can I leave my child in the car to pay for petrol?
By Sourced Externally
January 4, 2024
You only need to duck into a service station for a matter of minutes, but can you leave your child behind in the car? Here are the laws in Australia.
As any parent will know, juggling your child’s needs with the demands of daily life, work and household chores can be a challenge.
Most of the time, parental instincts prevail and help you get your priorities straight – but occasionally you might find yourself in a pickle.
For example, what happens when your child finally falls asleep in the back seat, but you realise you’re in desperate need of petrol?
Can you leave them snoozing in the car while you duck into the service station to pay? We looked at the laws around Australia.
Can I leave my child in the car while I pay for petrol?
No, to be safe you shouldn’t leave your child unattended in the car while you pay for petrol.
Across Australia, leaving a child unattended in a car is strongly discouraged, and in some states and territories it’s even illegal.
That means if someone spots you leaving your child alone in a car, particularly on a hot day, you could face a fine and potential jail time of up to three years.
For the purposes of this article, most states and territories deem a ‘child’ to be an individual under the age of 12.
While you may think you can get away with leaving your child unattended for only a few minutes, it’s still a serious danger to their safety as your child could be abducted, lock themselves in the car or become distressed or physically unwell.
And even if it’s a mild day, experts warn a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s and leaving the windows down has little effect on the inside temperature.
Furthermore, 50 per cent of the temperature increase that occurs inside a parked car happens in the first eight minutes, so even a brief outing could have fatal repercussions.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in New South Wales?
In NSW, it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a car “where they might be in distress or their health is in danger”.
Enforcement will depend on the circumstances, but it could be argued a hot car constitutes a threat to a child’s health.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in Victoria?
Yes, in Victoria it is against the law to leave a child unattended in a car. Potential penalties include fines or up to six months of jail time.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in Queensland?
Yes, technically it is against Queensland law to leave a child under 12 unattended for an “unreasonable” time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child.
“The maximum penalty for the offence is three years’ jail, but whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances,” Queensland Police said in 2021.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in the Northern Territory?
“Unlike elsewhere, it is not currently illegal to leave a child unattended in a car in the NT, but Police should always be called if a child is in distress,” Kidsafe NT advises.
Still, Kidsafe’s official advice is to “never ever leave kids (or pets) alone in a hot car, however briefly”.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in South Australia?
It’s not explicitly illegal to leave a child unattended in a car in SA, but SA road rules do dictate that if a driver will be over three metres from the vehicle and there is only a child under 16 years old left in the vehicle, the driver must remove the ignition key before leaving the vehicle.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in Tasmania?
While not strictly illegal to leave kids unattended in the car in Tasmania, Tasmania Police urge people not to leave their children or pets unattended in cars, particularly in warmer weather, and encourage people to contact them if they have any concerns for a child’s welfare.
“If you have to leave the car, even to run a quick errand, take the children with you,” KidSafe Tasmania urges.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in Western Australia?
Yes, it is a crime to leave a child in the car in WA without proper supervision for “such period or in such circumstances that the child becomes or is likely to become emotionally distressed, or the child’s health becomes or is likely to become permanently or temporarily impaired”.
Is it illegal to leave kids in the car in the ACT?
Yes, under Australian Capital Territory law, it is illegal to leave a child alone in a car.
“A person must not, knowingly or recklessly, leave a child unattended in such circumstances and for such a time that the child could suffer injury or sickness or otherwise be in danger,” the ACT Crimes Act states.