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Eliminating life-threatening dangers encountered by youngsters

By Sun Advocate

Being a child is not always simply a matter of fun and games. In fact, children face many life-threatening dangers on a daily basis that are often times overlooked by adults.
Fortunately, the majority of the dangers encountered by youngsters can be avoided with proper education and safety requirements.
Listed are the top five key dangers that children face. With dedicated parents and concerned adults, children will remain safe despite the risks that face them.
•Lack of seat belt and child safety seat use. Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for school age children.
In 1999, nearly 5,700 children ages five to 18 died in traffic crashes.
On average, 16 children were killed every day. Many of the tragic deaths could have been avoided.
For example, of the children ages five to nine who died in crashes in 1999, 40 percent were completely unbuckled.
Many parents switch their children from safety seats to seat belts at too early an age.
Safety seat use for children from ages one to four is 91 percent. However, restraint use drops to 72 percent for children ages five to 15.
Most children ages five to eight years old are too small to fit in an adult-sized belt. The youngsters should ride in a booster seat.
•Busy streets, unsafe motorists. Pedestrian incidents are the second leading cause of accidental death among children ages five to 14.
In 1999, 559 pedestrians ages five to 18 were killed after being struck by a motor vehicle, 109 of those deaths took place during normal school transportation hours in the 1998-1999 school year.
More school-age pedestrians are killed in the late afternoon than in the morning. Most of the deaths in question occurred at non-intersection locations.
•Low bicycle helmet use. In 1999, 260 bicyclists ages five to 18 were killed in crashes with motor vehicles. The fatality rate for these young bicyclists was nearly double the rate for all bicyclists.
Most of the bicyclists ages 5 to 18 killed or injured while riding were boys. Children are more likely to die from a bicycle injury between 4 and 8 p.m. (46 percent) than any other time of day.
Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes and is the biggest cause of bicycle related permanent disability. More children, ages five to 14 go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport.
•School bus stops. School buses are the safest form of transportation for children.
Nearly 24 million students ride buses to school every day. In fact, getting on or off the bus is more dangerous than the ride itself.
Many injuries occur when children walk into the driver’s “blind spot,” an area 10 feet around the bus.
Most bus related pedestrian deaths occur in the afternoon. More than 40 percent occur between 3 and 4 p.m. when children are going home.
Fifty percent of school bus related pedestrian fatalities were children between five and seven years old.
•School drop-off zones. Normal school transportation hours are the most dangerous time of the school day for children.
In the 1998-1999 school year, 864 children died between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The main entrance area of schools is one of the most dangerous transportation zones.
The area combines all of the designated dangers into a compressed time period during school transportation hours, according to state and federal safety officials.
Increased congestion around schools, as people drop off and pick up students, requires extra caution by drivers.
In order to protect children from the related dangers, adults need to take 10 basic steps:
•Use the correct child safety seat or seat belt for every child.
Even when transporting children a short distance, never allow anyone, including adult passengers and the driver, to ride unbuckled.
•For children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds, use a booster seat with a vehicle safety belt.
Children age 12 and younger should sit in the back seat where it is safest.
•Parents often overestimate their children’s pedestrian skills.
Children ages 10 and younger should not cross an intersection without supervision. Youngsters are at risk for pedestrian injury because they are exposed to traffic threats that exceed their thinking skills.
Also, children are impulsive and have difficulty judging speed and distance.
•Teach children to stop at a curb and look left-right-left for traffic before proceeding.
Make sure children have safe play areas away from traffic such as fenced playgrounds and yards.
Also, teach children to stop, look, and listen for trains before crossing railroad tracks and to never play on or near the tracks.
•Always require children to wear a correctly fitted bicycle helmet. And be a role model- wear a bicycle helmet, too.
•Make sure that children learn the bicycle “rules of the road” at the same time they learn how to ride a bicycle.
Buy a bike that is the right size, not one that the child has to “grow into.”
•Make sure children get to the bus stop at least five minutes early.
Teach children to ask the bus driver for help if they drop something near the bus. If a youngster stoops to pick up something outside the bus, the driver cannot see the child.
Teach children to take five giant steps out from the front of the bus before crossing the street.
•Work with local police and sheriff’s departments to enforce and publicize school bus laws for motorists.
Most states require motorists in both directions to stop when a school bus displays flashing red warning lights and extend the stop signal arm.
Vehicles may not legally pass until the flashing lights are turned off and stop arm is retracted.
•Work with education officials to create a safe school drop-off area. Arrange for crossing guards or help organize student safety patrols.
Make crosswalks more visible by adding broad striped lines.
•If the school drop-off zone has heavy traffic or a high speed limit, work with local officials to reduce speed limits and post flashing warning signs.
Ask the police to hold high-profile enforcement actions in school zones and to alert the public about the laws and the dangers of driving too fast near schools.
Parents, together with adults throughout the community, can make a difference in a child’s life by simply teaching and practicing safety skills around youngsters.
By doing so, many lives will be saved and more children will remain unharmed by common dangers, emphasize state and federal safety officials.

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