James Melton was a very smart kid who took
college-level computer courses at the tender age of 10.He was also a conscientious
teen who always wore his seat belt.Except on May 22, 1998.
That evening, for a reason he may never remember, the
then 13-year-old went unbuckled while riding in the back seat of an
SUV driven by his friend’s mother.When she lost control of the
vehicle and hit a tree, James flew over the front seat and slammed
into the dashboard.The
resulting head injury changed his, and his family’s, lives
“James was in a coma for three months,” says his mother
Diane.“When he finally
came to, he had to learn how to swallow, speak, eat and walk all
James’ injury remains devastating five years
later.“He’s 18 now,
but still hasn’t fully recovered,” said Diane.“He’s intelligent, but has
short-term memory problems, and judgment problems that can be very
frightening – even dangerous.”Diane says James was at a relative’s house one evening when
he decided to walk home – a 22-mile trip.He slipped out unnoticed at
and no socks, and somehow made it home safely the next
“So much has changed for us since the crash,” says
Diane.“James is still
my wonderful son, and I’m grateful he’s still with us.
“But he’s different, and he doesn’t understand why,”
she said.“He doesn’t
understand why he must take special education classes.Why he won’t ever have the
kind of job he’d dreamed of at 13.
“You never know when tragedy will strike,” said
Diane.“But all it
takes is one car ride without a seat belt, one bike ride without a
helmet, and life as you know it is gone.If all parents knew this,
they would always buckle up, and insist that their children do the
Every day a child in
Utah suffers a
devastating head injury.Those who don’t die often survive with physical, mental and
while many recover enough to lead normal lives, many more will never
be the same.
Children suffer brain injuries for many reasons, but
the most common are motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports and
assault.Most of these
injuries can be prevented.
This issue of the SAFE KIDS Sentinel has lots of safety
ideas for parents and caregivers, from using car seats and seat
belts to locking away guns and wearing helmets.We urge you to read it
information on brain injury in
Can’t wait ‘til your toddler is big enough for a
grown-up seat belt?Well, don’t hold your breath.Not only is he too small for
a seat belt, your 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds are, too.
Putting children in the right safety restraint at the
right time is the most important thing you’ll do to keep them safe
on the road, and at just $20-$50, they’re a very inexpensive life
children are 4’9” tall, they should not be placed in adult seat
belts.In a collision,
they can either slide right out from under an adult belt, or suffer
serious internal injuries if the belt cuts into the
Utah, motor vehicle
crashes are the leading cause of death for all children between the
ages of 4 and 14.
Remember:If children can’t be
transported safely, they shouldn’t be transported at
You can help cut the death rate by following these 4 Steps
1.Use rear-facing infant seats
for children from birth until they are at least a year old AND at least 20 lbs. (up to
30 lbs. if possible).
2.Use forward-facing toddler
seats for children from at least age 1 AND 20 lbs. to 40 lbs.
3.Use booster seats for children
until they are 4’9” tall.This critical step is often missed by parents who think their
children fit just fine in an adult belt.A booster seat lifts a child
up so a safety belt can fit correctly.
4.Once a child is tall enough for a seat belt, it should be
used on every trip.The
safest place for children up to age 13 is in the back seat.Parents should set the
example by wearing their own seat belts.
you know which of your neighbors has a loaded gun in the house?Nearly one-third of all
families with children keep at least one firearm at home.And while they are meant for
protection, guns often end up hurting the very families they are
supposed to keep safe.In Utah, from
1999 through 2001, an average of 10 children were shot each
a parent or caregiver, protect your children by unloading and
locking away your own guns, and ask your neighbors to do the
Never try to hide a gun hoping your child, or a
neighbor’s child, won’t find it.One study found that when a
gun was in the home, 75 percent to 80 percent of first- and
second-graders knew where it was kept.And don’t think kids that
age can’t use a gun.Children as young as three are strong enough to pull a
If you’re not sure how to talk to your family about guns,
here are some HOUSE
§Don’t let children play
video/computer games involving guns.Kids under age eight can’t
tell real guns from toys, and don’t understand that real ones cause
§Teach children that if they
see a gun to stop, don’t touch it, leave the area and tell an
§Tell them to always assume
that a gun is loaded.
§Tell them never to point a
firearm at another person or in the direction of
§Never throw, drop or otherwise
mishandle a firearm.
locks on all firearms or keep them in a proper lock-box or
are brick walls, cars, street signs, sidewalks and paved roads,
especially when they meet up with your unprotected head.
The Utah Department of Health reports more
Utah children are
saving their brains by wearing helmets when bike riding, in-line
skating and skateboarding.Seven years ago, only 10 percent of grade-schoolers wore
helmets; now 20 percent do.But that leaves four out of five kids still at serious risk
of getting hurt or dying in a crash.Worse yet, only seven
percent of junior and senior high school students wear
Head injury is the number one reason kids die when they
crash their bikes.The
best way to keep them from dying is to make them wear a helmet and
make sure the helmet fits properly.
Loose and tilted helmets provide much less protection
in a crash.Make sure
the helmet is level and the strap is snug on your child’s
If you have trouble getting your children to wear helmets,
here are some ideas:
1.Set a good example by wearing your own
helmet when you ride.
2.Point out athletes who use helmets.Baseball, football and
hockey players wear them.
3.Have your child pick out the
4.Never let your child ride or skate without
5.Praise your child for wearing a
6.Start the helmet habit early with your
child’s first wheels.
Note:Children under age 1 should
NEVER be transported on
bikes or in bike trailers.
Play is a big part of a child’s development, and
playgrounds are a great place for kids to improve their social and
playgrounds can also be dangerous.
The next time you take your little ones out to play,
take a look around and remember these basic safety
1.Kids Need Watching – Forty
percent of playground injuries happen when there is not adult
watching the children.
Right Stuff – When buying equipment for a backyard playground,
make sure it is appropriate for your child’s age and
3.Look Out Below – While your
lush lawn may seem safe for play, it’s a poor shock absorber in a
shredded rubber and fine sand are all much better.Make sure the material is at
least 12 inches deep and that it extends a minimum of six feet in
all directions around the equipment.Check the fill regularly and
make sure it doesn’t get compressed.Do NOT use asphalt,
concrete, grass or dirt under playground
4.Check It Out – Look closely
at the playground equipment.Are there loose nuts, jagged edges or bolts that stick
out?Are there places
where a child could become trapped?Correct problems at home
right away, and alert school and day care officials to problems with
Finally, don’t send kids to the playground wearing
necklaces, scarves, helmets or hoods with drawstrings; they could
catch in the equipment and pose a choking risk.For more helpful hints,
Most parents think their kids are smart enough to stay
safe in traffic.But,
children lack some basic judgment skills.For example, young children
can’t tell how fast a car is going, and they think that if they can
see the driver, the driver can see them.
Every year more than 700 children die after being
struck by cars.Another
47,000 are hurt, and many of them suffer traumatic brain injuries
that leave them paralyzed or with brain damage.
Walk with your child to school to see how safe the
route is.Are there
sidewalks and crosswalks?If not, is there a safer route?Also, never allow children
to play in or around parked cars.
Before your kids take another step, remind them of these
basic rules of the road:
§Always use sidewalks and
§Watch for cars pulling out of
§Stop on curbs and look both
ways before crossing.
§Don’t walk into a street from
behind a parked car.
§Make eye contact with the
driver of an approaching car before entering a
Finally, remember the dangers of the driveway.Already in 2003, four
Utah children age 3
and under have been backed over and killed in their own yards and
out without checking first, and make certain all children are safely
inside the house before you leave.Take special care in an SUV,
as small children can be invisible below the rear bumper.
Taking a few extra seconds for safety may save your