Almost a quarter of UK parents admit to leaving their kids on their own in the car for as long as 27 minutes.
The research, by Kwik Fit Insurance Services, reveals that dads are likely to leave kids alone in cars for longer than mums – despite half of parents saying they’ve returned to misbehaving children as a result.
The most common scene to return to is fighting between siblings (15%), tears (13%) and beeping the horn (13%).
Worryingly, one in six parents admitted to locking their kids in the car as punishment – while more than a quarter said they simply forgot about them.
Child behaviour expert Richard Curtis said: “The results of this survey are very shocking.
“While 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.”
The survey found that the youngest age on average that UK parents leave their children alone in the car is 7 years – dropping to 5 years for younger parents.
Curtis added: “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.”