Article at a Glance
Did you know that the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the deadliest for children and adolescents? These summer months see a rise in all kinds of injuries, including motor vehicle accidents, bike crashes, drowning, suicides, and falls.
Kids are understandably accident-prone. Not only do they have boundless energy, but they are also testing new skills and freedom. A few scrapes, bumps, and bruises are to be expected. But when an accident results in a serious injury or is deadly, it is devastating. We would never wittingly put our children in harm’s way, but when we cut corners on safety we play a dangerous game.
In Utah, an average of 450 children die every year and one-third of these deaths are caused by an injury. Tragically, most injuries are preventable. By being aware of the dangers, parents can help their children learn how to be active while still being safe.
For children ages 1 to 24, here are some of the leading causes of injury deaths and how to prevent them.
In the U.S., motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury deaths for ages 5 to 24. Whether you are riding in the car with your kids or where there are cars present, this is an area where it pays to be extra careful.
Car Seats and Boosters
Car seats can reduce the chance of a fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for children ages 1 to 4. After your children outgrow their car seat, they should be in a booster seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 and 12 years old.
Be a good example. When the driver doesn’t buckle up, 76 percent of children in the car also go unbuckled. And starting the habit early makes it more likely that your children will buckle up their entire lives. Remember, children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back.
Teens are three times more likely to get into a car accident. That risk increases more when teens are driving late at night, while intoxicated, or the more friends they have riding along in the car.
In Utah, teens under the age of 18 are not allowed to use their cell phones while driving. Texting is illegal regardless of age. When texting your eyes are off the road for about five seconds. If you are going 55 mph, that is enough time to drive the length of a football field blindfolded. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), doing things like texting, dialing, or reaching for a cell phone increases the chances of getting into an accident by 300 percent.
Living in a rural area increases your chances of getting injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident. People in rural areas often drive more and are less likely to use a seat belt. Injuries from farm equipment while doing things like hitching a ride on the family tractor are also a problem.
During the summer months more kids are outside and on bikes, so be extra careful when pulling out of your driveway or while driving. All cars have a blind spot and small children can be easy to miss.
These kind of pedestrian accidents or “backovers” most commonly involve a family member, friend, or neighbor. If you have visitors over or are visiting somebody else, remember that kids have a tendency to run out and crowd around the car when you are saying your goodbyes. Be sure to always check behind and in front of your car before pulling out, and pull out slowly with your window rolled down so that you can listen for any children. Before a car backs out of your driveway, be sure all your children are out of the way and within your eyesight. Teach children to not play around cars, even when they are off.
During the summer months the inside of a car can heat up quickly. Leaving your infant in the car on a hot day for even a few minutes is enough to cause heat stroke. Usually parents don’t intentionally leave their child in the car. Most commonly it occurs when parents or caregivers forget they have a child in the car with them.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4, and ranks third for children 19 and under. Be sure your children stay safe this summer by keeping a close eye on them and teaching them how to be careful when they around water.
Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
Often during pool parties and family gatherings people will assume that there are enough adults around to notice if something goes wrong. However, it can be easy to miss that a child is in danger unless you are watching closely. When people are drowning they don’t scream or thrash around like what you see in the movies. When people drown, their faces usually silently bob up and down above the water before they go under.
At The Lake
If you are enjoying a day out on the lake, everybody should be wearing a life jacket no matter how old they are or how good they are at swimming. Even adults can quickly get in over their head or get injured and not be able to swim. A life jacket can be a real life saver—80 percent of drownings are preventable with a life jacket.
Alcohol and water-related recreational sports are a dangerous mix. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is involved 70 percent of the time when an adult or teen die during a water-related activity.
For some reason, suicide rates spike in late spring and summer. Suicide is the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 to 17 and the second leading cause of death for ages 18 to 44.
Parents should be on the look out for factors that may put their teen at a greater risk for suicide; including mental disorders, major life changes, and the availability of a lethal method of suicide.
Studies have found that the risk of suicide increases by 4 to 10 times when there is a firearm in the house, especially when the gun is unlocked and loaded. Guns are the most common form of suicide and also the most deadly. It is a good idea to keep firearms locked up and inaccessible to children and teens, even if you believe they know how to handle them responsibly. If your teen is going through a difficult time period, look into storing your gun outside of the home for a while. Parents also need to be careful with their prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Camping and Hiking Safety Tips
Camping and hiking can bring a wide range of safety issues that we don’t typically have to deal with. Make sure you and your children are well prepared by packing appropriately and familiarizing yourself with any problems that may occur. Teach your children what to do if they get lost, how to identify poisonous plants, and how to behave around wild animals.
Always have a bucket of water and hose nearby. Children should never be allowed to light or handle fireworks. And be careful with sparklers—they cause more injuries than any other type of firework.
The playground can be a wonderful place for your children to get exercise and interact with other children. However, 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground injuries every year. This doesn’t mean you should stop taking your children to the park, but it’s a reminder that you should review your playground for any safety issues. Things like improper surfacing, broken equipment, or design issues can contribute to serious injuries. Make sure playground equipment is age appropriate for your child.
Being out in the heat too long can cause serious heat-related illnesses. Watch children carefully to make sure they are not getting too hot and that they are getting plenty of liquid. Teach your children how to recognize when they are overheated.
Remind your child to wear knee pads, helmets, shin guards, and other protective gear appropriate for the activity. Be sure to have an adult supervising and make sure your children understand the safety rules for each new sport or activity.