Safety Article


Teen drivingWe’ve all heard the saying “it takes two” and when it comes to teaching your teen good driving habits, it couldn’t be truer.  Take yourself back a bit if you will and try to remember the first time your parents handed you the car keys. The excitement was nearly uncontainable and the freedom you felt was like nothing you had ever experienced up until that point in your teenage life.  National Teen Driver Safety Week starts October 20th and carries on through the 26th.  This year, the NTDSW theme is “It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving.”  Hold on tight with these tips to help you and your teen overcome the (sometimes stressful) training that it takes to become a great driver!

For Parents

Set the bar high. Lead by example by following the rules of the road. Don’t talk or text on your cell phone and always wear your seatbelt.

Practice makes perfect.  Well…maybe that’s a stretch, but the more practice your teen has at driving, the more likely they are to make good judgments and begin developing habits that will keep them safe behind the wheel. Start by driving during the daytime and slowly graduate into driving at night.  Keep track of your training hours by downloading a driving log at http://www.teendriversource.org/index.php/tools/for_parents/detail/42 or by using a phone app like www.timetodriveapp.com.

Reward responsible behavior.  Reinforce responsible behavior by rewarding your teen with greater privileges that will allow them to become more independent.

Set boundaries and expectations.  Communicate with your teen and be clear on what you expect from them.  Be firm, but also provide an explanation in regards to the do’s and don’ts of driving and help them better understand that it’s not about control, but safety.

Be reliable. Showing your teen that you are available for their support anytime and anyplace is essential.  Peer pressure can take on many shapes and forms.  Make certain that your teen knows they can count on you by creating a code word they can use if they are in an unsafe situation.  If they call or text you, pick them up immediately, no questions asked.

For Teens

Know the facts.  You’re young, but you are NOT invincible.  Teenagers (16-19) are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than all other age groups. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Educate yourself and know what situations (not all are obvious) can put you at risk.

Be involved. Groups like Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD) and Project Ignition provide education and tools that promote good decision making skills when it comes to driving.  Let your voice be heard and make a difference in your community!

Listen well and don’t resist. Although it seems as though parents just don’t understand, they do.  Believe it or not, your parent was 16 once and behind the wheel for the first time too.  Sure times have changed, but not too much is different in respect to being a teenage driver.  Listen to your parents and be attentive to the direction they are giving you.  They aren’t telling you what or how to do something to be mean or controlling.  They want you to make the right choices so that you come home safe and sound.

Don’t be afraid to call your parents.  You may think that your parents will be angry with you if you call them in the middle of the night asking for a ride home.  Trust me, your parents want you to be safe and if it means coming to pick you up, no matter what the situation or what time it is, don’t be afraid to make that call.  It may save a life, even your own!

Whether you are the parent or the teen, it takes two to make safe driving a success. Be smart, be responsible, and above all be calm when you get behind the wheel!

Grill BlogJuly is National Grilling Safety month and whether you are deemed the “Barbeque Master” on your block or not, safety still matters! Most all safety tips really are just common sense, but with the regularity in which we barbeque each summer comes a comfort level that sometimes allows for us to overlook one or more safety items that can put  you, your loved ones, or property at risk.  Knowing what risks you are taking each time you fire up your grill puts you one step ahead of the fire and the potential damage that can come from simply doing something you do quite often.  Here are just a few things to keep in mind when grilling this season or any other season for that matter.

1.       Respect the Fire

I don’t think I need to tell you that fire is a destructive force that can quickly turn into a nightmare if taken for granted.  There are thousands of fires each year that evolve from grilling, causing injury, death and millions of dollars in property damage.  Knowing your flame and how to control it is number one.  Designate one person to watch the fire that is aware of how to cut fuel supplies, extinguish fires, and call the Fire Department. This person should also be familiar with how to treat burns.

2.       Food Safety

Although it’s probably the most obvious risk, fire is not the only one when grilling.  Food safety is key to being able to enjoy the outdoors when on vacation, at a party, or even just a quiet family dinner.  Bacteria can eat and exist on every kind of food that you possibly imagine.  It can grow and multiply at any temperature and if you aren’t careful, can prove to be one of the worst experiences of your life (no joke).  If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you may agree that it may just be the worst type of “sick” you’ve ever been.  Keep in mind when you are done serving up yourself and your guests, everything gets put into the fridge.  A few rules of thumb: Wash your Hands, Cover it Up, Keep it Cool, Get it Hot!, and simply put…Use your Head.   Bacteria can grow on anything that is above freezing and can stay alive until the temperature hit’s 165 degrees F.

3.       Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)…aka Smoke

Acenaphthene, acenaphthylene, and fluoranthene…wait what????  These are just 3 of the 18 of the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) that can take flight when grease begins to burn.  Just like second hand cigarette smoke can give you cancer, so can smoke from grilling.  Although, the smell of a grill can be nostalgic and somewhat enjoyable when cooking up your hamburgers and hotdogs, be sure to keep your distance.  The younger you are, the worse effect it can have on you.

4.       Gas Safety

Do you know what the some of the number one causes of a gas fire is?

a. Gas leak

b. Bugs

c. Organic Materials

d. All of the Above

If you chose “d”, congratulations!  You are one step closer to knowing your grilling safety and keeping yourself, loved ones and your property out of harm’s way.  Any of the items listed above can ignite a gas fire when you start up your grill because they are “hidden” behind, underneath, or inside your grill where you don’t often look.  Check out your grill from all angles before firing it up. Look for anything that could be flammable near or around your grill and remove it accordingly.  In addition to being gross and annoying, bugs can cause all kinds of damage in regards to your grill that may result in a gas flowing where it shouldn’t.  Check for leaks and other possible breakages that can result in a fire.

5.       Drink Responsibly

Most of us like to cool it down with a tasty alcoholic beverage when grilling, but much like driving, alcohol and grilling do not go hand in hand.  Grilling requires clear a mind.  Be sober, be alert, and above all be responsible when grilling!

For more safety tips on grilling, please visit http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/cooking.shtm.  Be calm and grill on my friends!

distracted drivingIf you haven’t heard yet, April is “Distracted Driving Awareness” month. Although we aren’t perfect, I think the majority of us consider ourselves to be excellent drivers. Every now and again, however, I think that we can all honestly say that there may be something that causes us to take our eyes off the road, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Whether it’s a text, an incoming call, or even your crying baby in the backseat, it’s a distraction none the less. Although texting is probably the most common thing that you hear about these days, surprisingly, it is not the number one reason with respect to distracted driving.

Using data collected from 2010 and 2011, an analysis was performed by an insurer out of Erie, PA. By using some of the top resources and information such as police report data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and also the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the insurer was able to determine the top ten distractions involved in fatal car crashes.

Still think texting was the number one reason? Think again! The analysis reported that a whopping 62% of distracted drivers were either “lost in thought” or “generally distracted”….aka daydreaming. When I think about it, I can honestly say that I have definitely been guilty of daydreaming while at the wheel. With the busy schedules we keep and the hustle and bustle of getting from here to there, it’s easy to “zone out” while you are driving. Our minds are in a constant state of thought. Whether you are thinking about what you should make for dinner, wondering if you packed everything you needed for your weekend getaway, or simply trying to decide what exit you want to take, you are putting yourself, your loved ones, and others at risk. So the question now is how do you stop daydreaming and stay focused on the road? There are a number of things that you can do to accomplish this.

1 – Control Your Emotions: Do not let a fight with a friend or significant other interfere with your drive. Before you get behind the wheel, make the decision to put your emotions aside and make a plan. For example, tell yourself “When I get home, I’m going to call my friend Jenny to vent, because she gives good advice and perspective”.

2 – Pump Up the Jam: Put together a playlist or cd with music that gets you going. Songs that have 100-175 BPM (beats per minute) can help keep you alert.

3 – Let Some Air In: Open your windows. Seat warmers and heaters during the winter months, although cozy, can relax you right into the thought of being snuggled up in your own bed. Crack the windows, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Just like a cold shower can wake us up, so can a blast of cold air.

Whether it’s daydreaming, texting, or putting on your lipstick, there is no doubt that distracted driving is a growing epidemic. Be mindful of how you are feeling, both physically and mentally, before you start the ignition. Consider your drive a mission, even if it’s just to the grocery store, and get from point A to B in one piece. Carry on and drive safe!

Keeping your Holidays Happy – 5 Holiday Safety Tips

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are here and between all of the “hustle and bustle” we can sometimes forget the little things which can potentially turn into something much bigger. Here are a few tips on keeping you and your loved ones safe and happy for the upcoming New Year.

1. Be cautious with candles.

Which are the top days for candle fires? You got it! It’s Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve and Day and Halloween too!

More than one-quarter of candle fires occur because they were too close to something that was flammable, such as curtains or gifts. This can be prevented by simply moving your lit candle at least a foot away from any other potentially flammable objects.

You should never leave a candle unattended. Whether you leave your home or go to bed, be sure to blow out all of your candles.

LED “candles” are the new craze. They are battery-powered and flicker, creating a flame-like appearance.

2. Set a timer when you cook.

With all of the holiday meal preparations, it’s easy to get side tracked. To avoid a fire started by unattended food, be sure to use a timer. If you have multiple dishes cooking, try more than one timer. Label the timer with a sticky note so when it goes off, you know which dish needs your attention.

3. Properly dispose of live trees.

I think most everyone knows just how quickly an evergreen tree can burn. Never try to dispose of your tree or wreath by tossing it into your fireplace. Not only are they hazardous because the burn so fast, but burning evergreens can also mean creosote buildup which is another fire hazard in itself.

Visit http://www.mesaaz.gov/waste/Christmas_Tree_Recycling.aspx to find out more about the Christmas Tree Recycling Program in the City of Mesa.

4. Mask high-priced gift boxes.

There is no better way to announce your new flat-screen TV or LED Laptop to an unsuspecting burglar than leaving out the trash. Instead of leaving the box intact, break it down for recycling, turn it inside out or simply tear it into pieces small enough to fit inside a garbage bag.

5. Designate a driver.

Celebrate holiday parties with peace of mind! Always have a plan that will end with your safe arrival home. Visit http://www.taxifarefinder.com/main.php?city=Mesa-AZ to find a list of local taxi companies. You can estimate your fare too!

From my family to yours, happy holidays! Please enjoy and be safe!

Life is full of difficult decisions, many of which are emotionally charged and require us to help make choices to protect those we love. Having a discussion with an elderly loved one about their driving ability and safety can be awkward to say the least. Avoiding or turning a blind eye to the topic will only hurt your loved one and put both themselves and others at risk. Although it may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary to know when and how to engage in conversation.

Dialogue between family members is encouraged. Being pro-active and holding a discussion prior there being a problem can reinforce driving safety issues and can allow time for the older adult to consider and modify their driving skills. During a survey, more than half of the older adult participants expressed willingness to take suggestions about driving safety simply because someone had talked to them.

If you have difficulty or encounter extreme resistance, consider having additional conversations with family members, doctors, or even law enforcement officials if necessary. Depending on the situation, a doctor may take a primary role in the assessment by evaluating the patient’s visual, cognitive, and motor skills. Some may even refer a concerned patient to an independent party or therapist who is qualified to perform a comprehensive driving evaluation. Aside from family, 27% of older adults that are married and 40% single or widowed prefer to hear from their doctor about whether or not they should be driving.

In extreme situations, when an older driver refuses to respond to any type of conversation, you may have to consider more extreme measures. Cancelling registration, insurance, or having a driver’s license revoked may seem like a good plan, however, this might not prevent the older adult from continuing to operate a vehicle. Although it can seem aggressive, disabling the car, filing down keys, or taking the car away may result in a safer and more final outcome.

Limiting or giving up driving altogether for an older adult is a delicate issue that requires an enormous amount of love and support from friends and family members. Like many of life’s decisions, it may be difficult at first, but the transitioning of your loved one from a driver to a passenger will gradually occur over time. Being involved and helping to incorporate this change in an older driver’s life can give yourself and your entire family peace of mind. Start your conversation today!

Most auto policies have exemptions for accidents caused from road rage (image via flickr)

These days it seems like everyone is in a hurry to get everywhere they need to go.  By the way many of us drive, you might think we have someone in the car that is hurt and in dire need of an emergency room because we act as if mere seconds may make the difference between life and death.  Sadly, most of those times, we are just going where we need to go.  This kind of aggressive, me-first, take no prisoners style of driving often leads to road rage, which the NHTSA estimates is a contributing factor in a third of all car accidents and two-thirds of car accidents that result in a fatality.

Whether it is our busy lives, increased traffic, or just the fact that we are used to driving this way, everyone on the road needs to do their part to stop aggressive driving and eliminate road rage.  Not only is this type of driving dangerous and illegal, many auto insurance policies contain exemptions for accidents caused by road rage.  This means that if you are the one raging and you cause an accident, you are on your own; the insurance company won’t cover the damage.  Don’t let your temper get the best of you by following these tips for keeping your anger from affecting how you drive.

1.     Leave Plenty of Time

One of the most common causes of aggressive driving is being late.  When we are trying to get somewhere and the clock is ticking and there isn’t enough time to make the trip, we get stressed and try to make up the time by passing and speeding.  Don’t put yourself in this position, leave early, make sure you have plenty of time, and if you are late, remember that no matter how important it is that you get there on time, it is not more important that your life or the life of someone else.

2.     Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

Another contributing factor to aggressive driving and road rage is when we develop an Us vs. Them attitude towards the other drivers on the road.  If they are in front of us and going slower than we want to go, we think they are doing it on purpose.  If they merge poorly, and cut us off, they did it on purpose.  If they are driving too close to us, they are tailgating us.  While sometimes these things are true, sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes other drivers are just not paying enough attention to how their actions are affecting the cars around them.  Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are clueless rather than deciding that they are your enemy.

3.     Pay Attention to How You are Driving

Take a few minutes to think about how you drive.  Are you the driver that drives just under the speed limit on every road?  Do you find that other drivers seem to become aggressive towards you on a regular basis?  Even if you aren’t the one who is getting mad, you might be contributing to the problem.  Pay attention to how you are driving and make sure you aren’t the one everyone else has to give the benefit of the doubt.

Aggressive driving and road rage is everyone’s problem.  Pay attention, drive courteously, and remember that everyone on the road is just trying to get where they are going in the shortest amount of time.  Winning the battle against road rage starts with you.

 

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Are you prepared in the event of an emergency? (image via flickr)

Today’s newspapers and internet sites seem to highlight some new catastrophe almost every day.  Whether it is a drought in the U.S., flooding caused by a typhoon in the Philippines, or an earthquake that destroys most of an island nation, emergency situations are all around us.  Now, more than ever, families need to take steps to be ready in case one of these catastrophic events comes to call.

September is National Preparedness Month and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross will be working with communities and families to raise awareness about the need for emergency preparedness and to offer advice and information on what kind of preparations need to be made.  The primary goal of National Preparedness Month is to get people to understand the importance of preparing before disaster strikes.  To help increase awareness, here are 4 things every household should do in order to be ready and be able to respond.

1.     Fire Evacuation Plan

In 2010, statistics show there were more than 360,000 house fires in the U.S.  and 2,640 people lost their lives as a result.   Unlike some other natural disasters that only impact certain areas, house fires can happen to anyone.  Make sure your family has a fire evacuation plan that includes at least two ways out of every room.

2.     Emergency Contact Information

One of the scariest things family members encounter when there is a crisis is not being able to find loved ones.  Establishing an emergency communication plan that includes meeting places, important contact numbers, and how to use an out of town relay to locate and communicate with each other is your best defense.

3.     Evacuation Plan

If the time ever comes that it is no longer safe to remain in your home, you won’t likely have time to formulate the best evacuation plan either.  In order to be ready if that order ever comes, you need to know where the closest shelter is in your town as well as where emergency shelters can be found in neighboring towns or cities.  You need to have an emergency kit that contains everything your family will need for 72 hours already packed and ready to go with you in the car.

4.     Sheltering in Place

Just like there are times when you must leave your home, there are times when leaving is the last thing you want to do.  Every family should have a plan for remaining in their home for several weeks without access to outside resources like the grocery store or essential services like electricity.   By stocking enough food, water, medicine, and other critical supplies ahead of time, you can feel confident that if there is a reason not to go out, you won’t have to just to survive.

You don’t need to stockpile several years of food, learn to spin your own wool thread, or spend thousands of dollars on tools and equipment it is unlikely you will ever use in order to be prepared.  It only takes a little time, a little effort, and a trip or two to the grocery store to make sure your family is ready to weather whatever storms come your way.

 

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As summer vacation fades in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a quick look at some ways to make sure all children are as safe as possible as we head into the new school year.  According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, more than 2 million children under the age of 14 are injured each year while at school.  Here are 6 tips for helping keep kids safe as school goes back into session.

1.     Make them a Map

Determine which specific routes to and from school and after school activities are acceptable for your child to use and then walk those routes with them.  This is important whether they are walking, riding a bike, riding a scooter, or travelling by any other means.  Mapping out acceptable routes ahead of time helps keep your child safe in several ways.  First, they won’t be taking short cuts that require crossing busier roads or expose them to unnecessary dangers.  Second, you will always know where to look for them if they are running late or do not arrive somewhere as expected.  Mapping out more than one route ensures they have a back-up in case there is an emergency or detour.

2.     Watch for Walkers

When school is in session, there are more children walking on sidewalks and crossing streets.  Drivers need to be aware of where schools are located on their normal commutes and pay attention to school zone signs and speed limit changes.  Pay extra attention whenever there are children walking, running, playing, or waiting to cross.

3.     Remind Kids about the Rules

For the first few weeks of school, parents need to remind their children about important safety rules.  Talking about important safety topics like looking both ways before going into the street, using crosswalks, paying attention to what’s happening around them, and avoiding strangers will help make it a safe school year.

4.     Practice Prevention

With children, many of the most common serious injuries are also the most preventable.  Make sure that children who ride their bikes to school are wearing a helmet.  If your child is going to ride a scooter or skateboard back and forth each day, provide the appropriate safety gear to protect heads, wrists, and knees and instill the importance of wearing it every time.

5.     Create a Contact List

It is important that any school age child knows basic contact information like their home phone, parent cell phone, and home address.  It is also a good idea to create an emergency contact list for them that can be kept in their backpack.  This may include additional phone numbers of grandparents, babysitters, or friend’s houses.  Additionally, make sure your child knows when and how to call 911 if there is an emergency.

6.     Promote Safe Play

Children are injured everyday just by being children.  Running, jumping, and playing often leads to scrapes, bruises, and bumps.  While this is a normal part of being a kid, parents can help protect their children from serious injuries and limit the number of minor ones by promoting safe play practices.  Check out the school’s playground and talk to the school administration about any safety concerns you see.  If the playground isn’t up to par, raise money to build a new one.  Talk to your child about how to play as safely as possible and what kinds of behavior can cause injury.

 

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Make sure your child is properly restrained while in your vehicle. (image via Flickr)

It’s hard to remember that there was a time when children rode around in cars completely unencumbered.  No car seats, no booster seats, and much of the time, no seat belts.  It is hard to fathom how that could have been the norm now that we know just how dangerous it can be for children to be unsecured in a collision.  In fact, even now with all the safety measures we have in place, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accidents are the number one cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 12.  Imagine how much higher than number would be without all the safety precautions we have in place.

While we can all agree that taking the right measures to keep kids safe in cars matters, we don’t always know the best way to keep them safe.  The NHTSA recommends all drivers who have occupants under the age 18 follow these general guidelines.

  1. Pick a car seat that is the right type for your child’s age and that is the right size to fit them.
  2. Pick a car seat that fits in your car and is easy to use so that you will use it every time.
  3. Follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.
  4. Read the owner’s manual for your car to determine if there are any special features for use with car seats or special practices related to their use.
  5. Don’t let children under the age of 12 sit in the front seat.

The ever changing array of child safety seats and laws that are different in each state, you may be unsure if your child or grandchild is properly secured.  Car seats are specifically designed to keep children of specific ages and sizes safe during a collision.  The basic recommendations are as follows?

Birth to 1 Year – Children in this age group should always ride in a rear facing car seat.  As there can be significant differences in size and weight between infants and children approaching their first birthday, there are different kinds of car seats that enable safe riding in the rear facing position.  You can also get car seats that can grow with your child and can be converted to accommodate rear facing positions and forward facing positions.

Age 1-3 – While it is best to keep your child in the rear-facing position as long as possible, once they reach the height or weight limit for the rear facing seat, they are ready to move up to a forward facing seat.

Age 4-7 – Children should ride in the forward facing seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for their seat.  At that point they can transition to a booster seat.

Age 8-12 – It is best for children to ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a regular seat belt properly.  This means that the lap belt fits snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt goes across the chest and shoulders.

For all the ages above, the child should still ride in the backseat as that is the safest place for them to ride.

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Do you know the role Crash Test Dummies play in your safety while riding in a car? (image via google)

Many of us change our diet to lose weight, watch our salt to lower our blood pressure, and take medication to help with cholesterol because we know that heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death for adults in the U.S.  But we rarely think about, let alone change our driving habits to make driving safer.  Yet car accidents, which claim the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year, are also amongst the leading causes of death.

Fortunately, even though we aren’t thinking about how to be safer drivers, other people are thinking about how to make driving safer and their efforts are making a difference.  These are the people who work in the area of crash test science which uses crash test dummies to learn how car accidents affect the human body so that cars can be designed to provide more protection.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), efforts in this area have helped to decrease the number of fatalities from 23 per 100,000 licensed drivers to 16 during the 15 year period from 1994 to 2009.

So, how does crash test science help make you safer?

The use of crash test dummies in one form or another started early on in the evolution of the car.  Car makers realized that in order to make cars safer, they needed to understand what happened to the occupants of the car when collisions occurred.  In the first half of the 20th century, cadavers and pigs acted as crash test subjects, allowing car makers to see the types of damage caused from things hitting bodies and from bodies impacting other things.    While this was helpful, it didn’t show the other kinds of damage that collisions cause like those resulting from gravitational force and kinetic energy.   It was also impossible to conduct standardized testing.

Then, in 1949, came Sierra Sam, the first real crash test dummy.  Sierra Sam was originally designed to test what happened when a person was ejected using an ejector seat in an aircraft.  From Sam, crash test dummies have developed into very sophisticated pieces of equipment that can cost as much as $400,000.  Crash test dummies allow for standardized tests to be conducted across multiple vehicles and different scenarios.  This enables car makers to learn how to make cars safer and to test changes to ensure changes actually improve safety in the ways they expect.

As long as there are cars being driven by people, there will be accidents.  This means that making crashes more survivable is the key to further decreasing the fatality rate.  Survivability goes beyond keeping people inside the car and keeping the passenger compartment intact, although improvements in these areas have dramatically increased the safety of our cars.  This is where crash test dummies and the data they provide make a real difference.  Gaining a real understanding of the kinetic energy a body is subjected to during a collision enables car designers to design cars in ways to reduce those effects.

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