Automatic lock safety concerns raised after children trapped in cars
Children were rescued from locked cars in Brandon and Winnipeg this week
Two incidents in Manitoba this week, in which young children were accidentally locked in their cars during a summer heat wave, have some asking what they can do to prevent their vehicles' automatic locks from malfunctioning.
An infant and a toddler were rescued after they were accidentally locked in during separate incidents in Brandon and Winnipeg on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
In both incidents, it was reported that the parents were outside their cars when the doors automatically locked.
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As well, the windows had to be smashed before rescuers could remove the children from the vehicles.
No injuries were reported in either incident, but it was hot outside. Temperatures were around 30 C, with humidity making it feel even hotter, on both days.
CAA Manitoba says it receives about 10,000 calls every year from people who have locked their keys in their vehicles, especially in the summer.
"We drop everything to get to these calls because we know, especially in this kind of heat, it's so important that we get to them as quick as possible," Young said Friday.
"The police can authorize us to go into that vehicle if that pet or that child is in distress."
In one of the incidents, Paula Walterson said her car's doors automatically locked while it was running on Thursday afternoon, trapping her 13-month-old daughter in the back seat.
Fortunately, Walterson said the air conditioning was running in the car while she called 911 and waited for emergency crews to arrive.
"The keys are not supposed to be locking in the car. When the keys are in the car, the doors are not supposed to lock," Walterson said Thursday.
"This has actually happened twice. Luckily, the first time, she was not in the car but … now this has happened."
Automatic locks becoming standard
Vehicles that seem to lock automatically with the keys inside are becoming more of a problem these days because manufacturers are doing away with manual door locks, warns Phil Edmonston, author of the Lemon-Aid series of guides for car buyers.
Edmonston said malfunctioning automatic locks is one of the biggest complaints he hears about, regardless of what the vehicle is or how expensive it is.
He noted that as a growing number of vehicles have complicated computer and electronic systems, there are no backup systems when they fail.
"If the fob fails, there's no way either that you can get in or you can get out many times, and it's very, very sort of concerning right now," he said.
What motorists can do
CAA says there are ways to prevent doors from self-locking by asking mechanics to override the factory settings.
"Some may have a setting when your keys are in the vehicle and the car won't lock at all," Young said.
As automatic locks are becoming a standard feature in vehicles, Young said there is a growing number of similar incidents involving doors self-locking by accident, so drivers should be especially vigilant.
"Depending on the settings of your automatic locks and your fob and even your remote car starter — how that's installed — this can all affect how quickly your car doors may lock," she said.
"The best situation is just always have them on you; never trust them to leave them in your vehicle, whether your car is running or not."
Edmonston said research is the best way consumers can protect themselves. When buying a car, they should ask the salesperson to show them all the features.