Keeping Your Family Safe this Summer

By Kevin Borrup, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center

It’s summer and that means it’s trauma season with an increase in injuries and deaths due to car crashes, falls, and drownings. With the hot weather we also see rare events become more common, as children die due to heatstroke after being forgotten and left alone in cars.  Please notice that I have said “injuries” and not “accidents.”  The term accident makes it seem like nothing could have been done but we know that almost all unintentional injury deaths are predictable and preventable.

The bad news is that after years of decline in injury deaths, we are seeing increases across the board.  The good news is that by increasing your awareness and others of potentials risks, you can act to prevent injuries before they happen.

We have all seen headlines announcing that once again a child has died after being left alone in a car on a summer’s day.  The inside of a car can heat up as much as twenty degrees in as little as ten minutes.  On a 90-degree day, a car’s interior temperature can reach 110 degrees in a very short period of time.  Half of children who die were forgotten by their care providers.  Thirty-percent gained access to an unlocked car, climbed inside and couldn’t get out.  Twenty-percent of deaths were of children left behind in a car on purpose while a parent went into a store, restaurant, or bar.  Never leave a child alone in a car, no matter what the weather is.

As the weather warms up children are outside having a good time, playing in the road and in driveways.  Fifty kids are injured in vehicle backovers EVERY WEEK in the United States.  Before you get into any parked vehicle check in front of it and check in back of it to make sure that a child is not playing by the vehicle.  Have any children who are outside gather in one location that you can see and designate another adult to supervise the group.  Children should only return to play after you have driven away.  As you leave, slowly move your vehicle and constantly scan in front and in back of you.  Stop immediately if any child moves toward the vehicle.

Summer also is a time for pools to be opened and backyard parties.  Make sure that there is an adult designated to be a Water Watcher at any party you attend where there is a pool.  Adults can take turns watching the pool from the pool deck to ensure that nobody gets hurt.  If you go swimming at a natural body of water, only swim where there is a lifeguard on duty.  Young children should wear a lifejacket whenever they are in or near water.

David Strayer, a noted cognitive neuroscientist who studies driving and distractions, and his colleagues, concluded that it can take drivers up to 27-seconds to fully return their attention to the driving task after being distracted.   For those who claim to be multi-taskers, this just does not exist.  What a “multi-tasker” is really doing is task switching.  Every time you switch a task you will encounter a delay in fully focusing your attention on the new task.  With all the distractions that we have brought into our lives, mainly through our smart phone use, it is no wonder that were are experiencing historic increases in injury deaths.

This summer, the number one recommendation that I can make is put that phone away.  If you are driving keep the phone in your pocket or, better yet, place it in the back seat.  If it is your turn to watch the pool, put your phone in your pocket. You can safely use it later.  Actively watch the water and spot potential dangers before someone gets hurt.  If you are walking down the street ditch the earbuds, keep your phone in your pocket, and pay attention to your surroundings.  Remember, just because you can see a car does not mean they can see you.  Finally, with more than 40,000 deaths on U.S. roads last year, drivers should slow down, pay attention, and come to a full stop at stop signs and before making a right turn on red.

With that in mind, enjoy a safe summer.



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