THE IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY EDUCATION

The Problem

Injuries are the leading threat to a child's health. There are more preventable deaths to children from bicycle accidents, automobile accidents, burns, drownings, falls, chokings and poisonings than from all contagious diseases combined. "By nearly every measure, injury ranks as one of the nation's most pressing health problems."2 A summary from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that injuries disproportionately strike the young. Statistics showed that 44% of the deaths to children from 1 to 4 years old were injury related. The percentage of deaths attributed to injuries for 5 to 14 year old children was 52%, and 63% for the age group of 15 to 24 years old. With respect to children, one problem is a lack of safety education. The costs to society for childhood injuries are enormous. These include health care costs, loss of parent productivity while parents worry about and care for their child, costs to the legal system, and strains on schools. There is also the societal loss of unrealized future contributions by children who suffer fatal or brain damaging injuries. Worse are the effects on the quality of life for the children and their parents: unnecessary physical and emotional pain, stress, financial pressures, and negative effects on the child's education and development.

Children Are at a Greater Risk for Injuries

Infants and Young Children

Infants and young children are at greater risk for many injuries. This increased risk may be attributed to many factors. For example, children like to explore their environment. This natural curiosity may lead them to sample the pills in the medicine cabinet, play with matches, or venture into the family pool. Younger children and infants have limited physical coordination and cognitive abilities, which puts them at a greater risk for falls from bicycles and playground equipment. It might also make it more difficult for them to escape from a fire. Due to their small size and developing bones and muscles, children and infants may be more susceptible to injury in car crashes if they are not properly restrained.

Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents are at a higher risk for injuries for many reasons. Because of their stage of cognitive development, children are often impulsive and unable to judge the safety of a situation. For example, they may dart out into a busy street to retrieve a ball, fail to follow the rules of the road while riding a bike, or assume that an unfamiliar dog is friendly. A child's size may also put him or her at risk. Because they are small, they are hard to see when walking in traffic. They may be seen as an easy target for a dog prone to attack, and they are not well- protected by adult seat belts in motor vehicles.

The risk of abuse- including sexual abuse- and suicide is high for both children and adolescents. Many children and adolescents do not report abuse because they fear punishment and/or the loss of a parent's love. They may also feel like they would be getting someone they love and rely on in trouble. The emotional and social changes that occur during this life stage may increase the risk of suicide.

Teen and Young Adults

Teens and young adults are at higher risk for many types of injuries. They are involved in violence more than any other age group. This increased risk may be due to development to act impulsively and to engage in risk-taking behaviors. Personal and social factors like substance abuse and involvement with delinquent peers may also increase one's risk of interpersonal violence. These factors may also increase this age group's risk of suicide and suicidal behavior.

For many reasons, teens are at increased risk for motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, ride with an intoxicated driver, or drive after using alcohol or drugs. Teens are also more likely than older drivers to underestimate the dangers in hazardous situations, and they have less experience coping with such situations. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of high-school students do not consistently wear seat belts. Just as with violent behavior, driving behaviors such as not wearing a seat belt and speeding may be linked to teens' impulsiveness and tendency to take risks. These factors are also likely linked to teens' and young adults' higher risk for spinal cord injuries and drowning and to their reluctance to wear bicycle helmets.

The Solution: Injury Prevention

Preventing injuries to children is the goal of the Help Keep Kids Safe® campaign. Injuries to children are not random, chance occurrences. When anticipated, most are easily prevented. The Help Keep Kids Safe® program was founded in 1989 by the law firm of Montlick & Associates, P.C. Since that time, it has conveyed important safety information to millions of people, through a wide range of activities.

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Sources: The safety tips in this section were compiled from the following great internet resources: 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.org),  2. Committee to Review the Status and Progress of the Injury Control Program at the Centers for Disease Control. 1988. Injury control: A review of the status and progress of the injury control program at the Centers for Disease Control. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.