Fall 2001 Sentinel
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The Sentinel Making Utah a Safer Place for Kids

Select an article below, or download the entire issue:

§         Seat-A-Thon a Super Success

§         Utah Practices Better Buckling

§         To Ensure Your Child Is Riding Safely

§         Helmets:  They’re Not Just for Cycling Anymore

§         Help Your Kids Breathe Easier

§         Holiday Safety Hints

§         Walk This Way



Seat-A-Thon a Super Success


One thousand Utah children are riding in safer car seats this fall thanks to a massive car seat check sponsored by the Utah SAFE KIDS Coalition.  In observance of the 2001 National SAFE KIDS Week May 5-12, coalition members and volunteers traveled across Utah in an unprecedented effort to check and replace as many car seats as possible.


“Our goal was to set a world record,” said coalition co-chair Cal Cazier.  “We know that having seats installed properly is a big step in keeping our kids safe on the road.”  During the week, SAFE KIDS held safety seat checkpoints in 15 cities from Logan to St. George.  They inspected more than 1,400 seats and installed 1,000 brand new ones.


“Fewer than one percent of all the seats we checked were installed correctly,” said SAFE KIDS co-chair Janet Brooks.  (See “Better Buckling.”)  “That means 99 percent were installed incorrectly and could have left children seriously injured or dead in a crash,” she said.  “The Seat-A-Thon was a wonderful opportunity to educate parents and caregivers about the proper use of car safety seats, booster seats, and seat belts.  And, because we traveled throughout the state, we were able to reach a greater number of people,” she added.  “We know our efforts will save lives.”


The Summer Safety Seat-A-Thon was supported by many corporations, including AAA Utah, KSTU Fox 13, Clear Channel Broadcasting, State Farm Insurance, the Utah Auto Collection and Utah Highway Safety.  Utah Blitzz pro soccer team members also accompanied coalition members as they traveled from city to city.


Child safety seat checkpoints are held across the state at various times throughout the year.  To see when a checkpoint will be held near you, call SAFE KIDS at (801) 538-6852.  For more information about the safe transportation of children, call (801) 588-CARS (2277).


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Utah Practices Better Buckling

But Too Many Children Are Still Unsafe


Thanks to massive educational campaigns, many Utah parents are getting the message about car seat safety.  More moms, dads, grandparents and caregivers are using safety seats and seat belts, and fewer are placing children in front of air bags.


But, as our army of SAFE KIDS seat checkers learned during this summer’s Seat-A-Thon, too many children are still at risk of death or injury because they’re not properly buckled.  Of the more than 1,400 seats checked, the problems found most often were children weren’t strapped tightly enough into their seats, and that the seats themselves weren’t anchored tightly enough to the seats of the vehicle.  Both these errors will leave the child poorly protected in a crash.


Other common errors included:  using the locking clip incorrectly; failing to install rear-facing seats at a 45-degree angle; using the wrong seat for the child’s age or size; and having no car seat or restraint at all for the child.  Utah law requires all children under age five to be in an approved child safety seat.  In addition, despite repeated warnings, some caregivers were still placing small children in front of an air bag.  Others had infants under one year and 20 pounds in forward-facing seats (extremely dangerous because of an infant’s underdeveloped neck muscles), many had the harness clip placed too high or low on the child’s chest or abdomen, or had threaded the harness straps incorrectly.


All these rules can seem overwhelming to a parent, and that’s why members of the Utah SAFE KIDS Coalition are available to help you make your seat safe.  If you want your child restraints inspected by a certified checker, please call (801) 5386852 or (801) 588-CARS (2277).


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To Ensure Your Child Is Riding Safely


§         Place all children under 80 pounds and less than 4 feel 9 inches tall in child safety or booster seats.

§         Read and follow all vehicle and safety seat instructions.

§         Send in your safety seat registration form so you can be notified of any recalls.

§         Tightly buckle safety seats into the back seat of vehicles.

§         Make sure the harness is threaded correctly, is snug, and is at the correct shoulder location.

§         Never place thick blankets, coats or padding between the child and the harness or back of a safety seat.

§         Place all children under one year of age and less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing seat, at no more than a 45-degree recline, and in the back seat.

§         Place children over age one and at least 20 pounds in a forward-facing seat that is secured in the back seat of the vehicle.

§         Use belt-positioning booster seats for children from about 40 to 80 pounds and up to 4 feet 9 inches tall.

§         Most safety seats require a chest retainer clip, which is placed at armpit level.

§         The handle on infant seats must remain down while the vehicle is moving.

§         Children 12 and younger always ride in the back seat.

§         Utah law requires that all vehicle occupants 18 years and younger must be restrained in a seat belt or child safety seat.


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Helmets:  They’re Not Just for Cycling Anymore


Life is hard.  Unfortunately, so are ski hills, brick walls, cars, street signs, sidewalks, and roads.  Everyone knows you should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle – but how many of us think about wearing one for other sports?  With winter approaching, parents should also consider putting helmets on kids for cold weather activities like sledding, skiing and snowboarding.  A recent rash of high-profile celebrity skiing deaths proved that snow and trees are just as deadly as sidewalks and streets.  The cost of a helmet is a small price to pay for life insurance.


There is little data available on winter sports head injuries, but statistics from bicycle crashes tell a chilling tale of the high price of head injuries.  Injuries to bicyclists cost Utah residents over one million dollars every year.  Hospital charges for cyclists admitted as inpatients were more than $14 million for the years 1992 to 1999.  Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes.  A helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85% and the risk of brain injury by 90%.  Yet only 15% of Utah elementary school-age bicyclists and fewer than 2% of secondary school age cyclists wear helmets.


And it’s not enough to just strap on any helmet – it must fit properly.  Helmets should fit snugly on the head with no room for play.  They should ride level and rest low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows.  Straps also need to be tightened snugly under the chin and positioned in a “V” under the ears.  An unstrapped helmet is like having no helmet at all.


Utah SAFE KIDS knows how tough it is to get a kid to wear a helmet.  Here are some tips:


§         Never allow your child to ride without wearing a helmet.

§         Start the helmet habit early with your child’s first wheels.

§         Set a good example by wearing your own helmet when you ride, ski, sled or snowmobile.

§         Point out athletes who use helmets.  Downhill skiers and baseball, football and hockey players wear them.

§         Let your child choose the helmet he or she wants – as long as it fits, of course.

§         Praise your child for wearing a helmet.


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Help Your Kids Breathe Easier


Every year as many as 5,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for choking on and swallowing toys.  Children under age three are especially vulnerable to choking because they have very small upper airways.  And airway obstruction in children 12 months and younger is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death.  The three primary risk areas are suffocation, choking, and strangulation:


Suffocation:  Sixty percent of infant suffocation occurs in the sleeping environment.  Infants can suffocate when their faces become wedged against or buried in a mattress, pillow or other soft bedding, or when someone sleeping in the same bed rolls over onto them.


Choking:  The majority of childhood choking injuries and deaths are associated with food items.  Children are at risk from choking on small, round foods such as hot dogs, candies, nuts, grapes, carrots and popcorn.  Risky nonfood items are coins, small balls and balloons.


Strangulation:  Clothing drawstrings, pacifier strings, necklaces and blind and drapery cords often cause strangulation.  Since 1991, at least 130 children have strangled on window covering cords.  Since 1995, 22 children have died after being strangled by clothing drawstrings.


Prevention Tips:


§         Place infants on their backs on a firm, flat crib mattress in a crib that meets national safety standards.

§         Remove pillows, comforters, and other soft products from the crib.  Never hang anything on or above a crib with a string or ribbon longer than 7 inches.

§         Always supervise young children while they are eating and playing.

§         Don’t allow children under age 6 to eat round or hard foods.

§         Keep small items like coins, safety pins, jewelry and buttons out of children’s reach.

§         Learn first aid and CPR.  Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for classes.

§         Remove hood and neck drawstrings from children’s outer clothing.  To prevent strangulation, never allow children to wear necklaces, purses, scarves or clothing with drawstrings while on playgrounds.

§         With beds, ensure that all spaces between the guardrail and bed frame, and all spaces in the head and foot frame, are less than 3.5 inches.


If your child does choke, call 9-1-1 first.  A dispatcher can walk you through the steps to remove an object from a child’s airway.


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Holiday Safety Hints


To keep your holidays happy, don’t shortchange your family on safety.  Following these simple tips will help keep spirits bright, and little ones safe:


§         When burning candles, make sure they are placed on a non-flammable surface.  Never leave them burning when you leave the house.

§         Never use candles on or near your tree.

§         At family meals, never place containers of hot food near the edge of a counter or on a table that’s covered by a tablecloth.  Young children can tug on the tablecloth and pull hot food or liquids down on themselves and others.

§         When you bring your fresh holiday tree home, saw off the bottom ½ inch of the trunk to help it absorb water.  Water the tree every day.

§         Never use lights with frayed cords or empty sockets.

§         Mini-lights are safest because they produce less heat.

§         Turn off all holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.

§         Check your tree’s needles daily.  If they become dry and brown, throw the tree away.

§         Test your smoke detectors.


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Walk This Way


Did you know that more than 1,000 Utahns, mostly children, are hit by cars every year while walking along or crossing a street?  And that at least 40 of those victims die every year as a result of their injuries?  It’s a sad fact that Utah streets can be hazardous to your child’s health.  In fact, the Salt Lake City/Ogden metro area is ranked as the 12th most dangerous area for pedestrians in the country.  These startling facts should make you think twice before sending your children out the door.  It never hurts to give kids a pedestrian refresher course:


§         Always model and teach proper pedestrian behavior.  Talk about making eye contact with drivers prior to crossing in front of them.  Teach children not to assume that because they can see the driver, the driver can see them.  Teach crossing streets as a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

§         Instruct children to look left-right-left-again when crossing a street and to continue looking as they cross.  Teach them that they should never run into the street.

§         Require children to wear reflective materials and carry a flashlight at dawn and dusk.

§         Teach children to walk facing traffic, as far to the left as possible, when sidewalks are not available.

§         Prohibit play in driveways, unfenced yards, streets, or in parking lots.

§         Teach children to cross the street at least 10 feet in front of a school bus and to wait for adults on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone.

§         Discuss that more than half of all toddler pedestrian injuries occur when their parents, caregivers, or relatives are backing up a vehicle in the driveway.


Finally, as adults it’s important to remember that one of the most dangerous places for children is your own driveway.  Always check for your children or your neighbors’ children whenever you back your vehicle out of a garage or driveway.


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