Parents Should Beware Dangers Lurking Near Driveways, Cars
June 27, 2007
With school out and the days growing warmer and longer, life shifts into summer mode. Safety-savvy parents’ first tendencies might be to think about guarding against dangers while at the beach, camping or hiking.
But according to Lynn Cimpello, M.D., assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics who co-directs the Injury Free Coalition for Kids Rochester at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, most accidents involving children under 5 years old happen in or around the home. And since summer is trauma season – emergency room visits peak in June, July and August – the message is clear: some of the biggest threats lay right outside your front door.
“They’re your driveway, your garage and your car,” Cimpello said.
On behalf of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids Rochester, Cimpello offered the following tips to ensure a safer summer:
Driveway danger zones
“Driveways may be the only place for some kids to bike, shoot hoops, chalk hopscotch boards, but don’t let your guard down,” Cimpello said.
· Set limits. Use cones or wire mesh – instead of a painted or chalked line – to mark the end of the ‘safe to play’ zone of your driveway. This physical barrier offers a reminder for cars to be careful when pulling in; it also helps to keep balls from rolling out into the street.
· Beware parked cars. Remind kids (especially in urban neighborhoods) not to play in or around parked cars. Also, keep neighborhood-wide games to one side of the street – even on quiet streets.
· Don’t let little ones run free. Leave toddlers and pre-schoolers buckled in their car seats (with the windows wide open) while you unload groceries or other items. Be adamant – and consistent – about holding hands when you cross a street, when you’re in a parking lot or even when cars pull in the driveway. (Kids are excitable and have been known to lurch toward moving objects – racing to mom or dad’s car as they return from work, for instance. In fact, darting into danger is the most common cause of motor-vehicle related injury for young boys between 4 and 7 years old.)
· Improve visibility. As our society is increasingly driving more minivans, SUVs and trucks, these bigger vehicles come with bigger blind spots, and at a cost: more than 2,400 kids each year are mistakenly backed up on and require treatment in emergency rooms. A staggering 70 percent of those accidents are caused by a parent or close relative. Learn your blind spots. Better yet, do a walk-around, use a spotter to guide you, or have kids stand in a designated spot that’s far out of the way and in your view. Also, whenever you have a chance, remove visibility obstructions (such as trash bins and unkempt shrubs) that may be blocking your view of the sidewalk when you pull out, or the driveway as you pull in.
Garage doors, moving walls
“They’re moving walls, literally,” Cimpello said. “And in the summer, as kids and adults flit in and out – parking bikes, digging out baseball bats, storing lawnmowers – they’re hard at work.”
Remember to respect their strength, she said, particularly if yours is manufactured prior to 1993 (when Consumer Product Safety Commission mandated more protective measures).
· Model safe behavior. Don’t play “beat the door” racing games; don’t stand beneath a moving door.
· Keep controllers out of their hands. Don’t let kids play with transmitters or controls – they’re not toys. Be sure to mount the wall unit well out of their reach.
· Perform monthly checks. To make sure rollers and cables are in sound working order, try this: take a soft, full roll of paper towels and lay it on its side. If the sensor doesn’t begin reversing and re-opening when it hits the roll, disconnect it until you can have it repaired.
Hot cars: greenhouses on wheels
“On sunny days, your car doubles as a greenhouse. Temperature can skyrocket as many 40 degrees or more in the 10 to 20 minutes it takes to run a quick errand inside the grocery store,” Cimpello warned. A heat surge of this magnitude can amount to temperatures as high as 120 to 130 on a typical summer day, or even a sweltering 110, on a mild one.
Don’t leave kids in the car; this makes headlines every year as a few dozen die each year from heat stroke, which strikes when the body temperature passes the 105 degree mark. Slightly cracking windows – even “just enough” to confer airflow but while still keeping strangers at bay – is not enough to alleviate the mounting heat.
“The rule of thumb is simple,” Cimpello said. “Though it may be a pain, if you get out of the car, bring the kids with you.”
The Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Rochester is a child injury prevention program centered at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. The program’s main goal is to reduce the incidence and severity of childhood injury in the greater Rochester metropolitan area.