5 Tips to Get You to Your Christmas Destination Safely

A few weeks ago, my brother surprised us with a phone call saying he’d be coming home from Japan for Christmas. Needless to say, my excitement level went through the roof! I spent this last weekend rushing and preparing: wrapping, cleaning, shopping…I should have added baking to that list, but Sunday night came quicker than anticipated!!

I have exactly 5 work days left before my husband, son and I hit the road for the family farm. I’m sure my to-do list is very similar to yours. It’s important for us to remember that, amongst all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, there are simple steps we can take to make sure we arrive at our Christmas destination safely:

  1. If you need to use the restroom or fill with gas, try to avoid rural rest stops. Instead, stop at high-traffic gas stations such as truck stops. They are usually well lit and in high-traffic locations.
  2. No matter the length of your trip, make sure you and loved ones are buckled up.
  3. If you are traveling with gifts, put them in a locked trunk where they are out of site from potential thieves.
  4. Plan and prepare for inclement weather.
    Give yourself plenty of time, check the road and weather reports (not while driving!), and stock your car with winter survival gear. On my phone, I downloaded the ND DOT’s app called ND Roads, as well as the KX Weather App.
  5. Let someone know when you plan to leave, what route you’re taking, and your estimated time of arrival.

Not traveling this Christmas? Please share these tips with family or friends who may be traveling!

Toy Safety for Santa (and you)

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospitals in 2012. That’s 726 injuries each day or about 30 injuries every hour. If your children have been good this year, they might receive a few toys from Santa this holiday season. The North Dakota Safety Council provides the following safety tips for Santa (and you) when choosing gifts for your little ones:

  • Consider your child’s age when purchasing a toy or game. It’s worth a second to read the instructions and warning labels to make sure it’s just right for your child.
  • Purchase the proper safety equipment when giving certain gifts. For instance, if a bicycle is on your child’s wish list, makes sure a helmet is also purchased.
  • Keep a special eye on small game pieces that may be a choking hazard for young children. While these kinds of games are great for older kids, they can pose a potential danger for younger, curious siblings.
  • After play time is over, use a bin or container to store toys for next time. Make sure there are no holes or hinges that could catch little fingers.
  • Sign up to receive product recalls. Safe Kids Worldwide and www.recalls.gov are two valuable resources.

The ‘Trick’ To Staying Safe on Halloween

Halloween is an exciting time for kids, but the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) reminds the public that pedestrian safety should be a top priority for both drivers and parents. On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. With hundreds of kids hitting the streets this Friday, the NDSC offers a few simple tips to help keep kids safe:

Tips for Ghouls and Mummies:

  • Children under 12 should trick-or-treat and cross streets with an adult. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and to trick-or-treat in groups.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Make sure your little ghouls and goblins walk, not run, across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the side as possible.
  • Make sure you child’s creative costume is also safe. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and choose light colors. Masks can obstruct a child’s vision, so choose non-toxic face paint and make-up whenever possible.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better, as well as be seen by drivers.

Tips for Drivers:

  • SLOW DOWN.  Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating.
  • As always, NEVER drink and drive.

For more information on pedestrian safety, contact Peter Pomonis, NDSC Home & Community Coordinator, at (701) 223-6372 or PeterP@ndsc.org.

Look Left, Right, and Left Again – oh, and put down your PHONE!

This morning, as I opened up one of my weekly news feeds, a headline caught my eye:
40 percent of teens have been struck or nearly struck by car while walking

At first, I thought it was an article about pedestrian safety related to distracted drivers. I was blown away when I read that more than 400 out of 1,000 teens were hit, or almost hit by cars because THEY were on their phones. I’ve seen the videos on YouTube of distracted walkers running into light poles but, even as an employee in the safety industry, I never realized it was this serious of a safety problem.

In case you need your eyes opened like I did, here’s a few of the stats released by Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • Safe Kids Worldwide surveyed 1,040 teens 13 to 18 years old about their pedestrian behaviors. Forty percent of the teens reported they have been struck or nearly struck by a car, bike or motorcycle.
  • Among teens who said they had been struck or almost struck while crossing a street:
    • 47% were listening to music
    • 40% ran across the street
    • 37% crossed from the middle of the block
    • 20% were talking on the phone
    • 18% were texting
    • 8% were looking at websites on their phone

It’s amazing to me that, with as far as we have come in improving safety for our children, it still goes back to the basics: look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

But, it’s obviously time to make a few adjustments for this technology-driven world:

  • Do not use phones or headphones when crossing a street.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing.
  • Stay alert when it is dark.
  • Cross at a traffic signal or crosswalk.

And parents, don’t stop talking to your kids about pedestrian safety once they reach their teens. According to this survey, it looks like they could probably use a refresher!

                                                                                                                                      
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Youth Sports: Keeping your young athlete off the IR list

In 2013, 1.24 million kids were seen in emergency rooms for sports injuries nationwide. That’s 3,397 every day, 141 every hour, or 1 every 25 seconds.

The culture of youth sports in today’s environment is extremely demanding of our children and is resulting in many injuries. Whether it’s a 9-year-old traveling basketball team or a high school swim team, the pressures of winning and being “tough” start at an early age. Playing through injuries is a trait often admired in sports culture, however, your kids may be doing more harm to their bodies than you think!

The North Dakota Safety Council offers the following tips to parents and coaches to help keep players off the injury reserve list:

  • When in doubt, keep them out. 
    If a child is suspected of being injured, keep them out of play.
  • Set ground rules at the beginning of the season.
    Coaches should bring together parents and athletes before the season to agree on the team’s approach to prevent injuries.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of concussions.
    Concussions can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.
  • Make sure your athlete has the proper protective equipment available and that it fits properly.
  • Teach athletes ways to prevent injuries such as: proper techniques, strength training, warm-up exercises and stretching.
  • Prevent overuse injuries.
    Encourage your young athletes to take time off from playing one sport to give them opportunities to develop skills in another sport.
  • Encourage athletes to speak up when they’re injured.
  • Put an end to dirty play and rule breaking.
  • Get certified.
    Learn First Aid and CPR so you can respond correctly to injuries.

Following these guidelines will help your young athletes enjoy a successful and LONG sports career.

Peter Pomonis
NDSC Home & Community Coordinator

Sources:  http://www.safekids.org/infographic/exploring-culture-youth-sports
and
www.cdc.gov/concussioninyouthsports

                                                                                                                                            
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9 Tips for a Safe Hunting Season

Fall. The time of year that leaves change colors, jackets are dusted off, football is on TV, and HUNTING SEASON begins. Hunting is a large part of the culture in North Dakota, and I was fortunate enough to learn at a very young age how to do it, both respectfully and safely. I owe that to my dad who took the time to go through the hunter’s safety course with me, as well as took me into the field to practice what I had learned. Hunting is most often a fun and enjoyable experience, however, when the proper procedures are not followed, the consequences can be devastating.

The North Dakota Safety Council offers the following safety tips for all hunters this hunting season:

  • Treat every firearm with the same respect as a loaded firearm
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
  • Be sure barrel and action are clear of obstructions
  • Unload firearms when not in use
  • Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm
  • Store firearms and ammunition separately
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting
  • When field dressing your game, keep meat clean and cool to avoid spoiling
  • Always wear bright or reflective clothing

Stay safe and happy hunting!

Peter Pomonis
Home & Community/Training Coordinator
North Dakota Safety Council
PeterP@ndsc.org

Tips gathered from: http://www.gf.nd.gov/wildlife/fish-wildlife/wildlife-diseases/safety-tips and http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Hunting/hunt_ten_commandments.htm

                                                                                                                                           

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NDSC Urges Students, Drivers to be Safe this Back-to-School Season

With the new school year upon us, you are going to notice a lot of extra traffic before and after school hours. That means, if you’re walking or driving during those times, you need to take extra precautions.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. for children ages 5 to 19. The North Dakota Safety Council offers these simple tips to both drivers and pedestrians this back-to-school season:

  • Talk to your kids about how to be safe while walking. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Teach kids at an early age to put down their devices and then look left, right and left again when crossing a street.
  • Children under 10 should cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, it can be hard for kids to judge speed and distance of cars until age 10.
  • Remind kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up.
  • When driving, be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones and be on the lookout for bikers, walkers, or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly. SLOW DOWN.
  • NEVER pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students. It is required by law for both sides of the street to stop when the bus’ red lights are flashing and/or stop sign is deployed.

Please, share these tips with your children, whether they are walking or driving to school. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Staying Safe During One of the Busiest Travel Weekends of the Year

Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, and one of the most dangerous. The National Safety Council estimates 395 people will be killed and an additional 42,300 will be injured in car crashes this weekend. Those are some pretty scary statistics if you ask me!

But on a positive note, they also estimated 144 lives may be saved by doing one simple thing: BUCKLING UP.

Please, before you get on the road this weekend, take one second to buckle your seatbelt. Then, make sure everyone else in the vehicle buckles up, too. It’s the most basic step you can take to increase your chance of survival in a crash.

Here are some more simple tips to help keep you safe on the road this weekend:

  • Refrain from using cell phones – handheld or hands-free – because there is no safe way to use a cell phone while driving
  • Do not manipulate in-vehicle infotainment systems or electronic devices, including GPS systems, while the vehicle is in motion
  • Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed
  • Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather
  • Designate a non-drinking driver or plan for alternative transportation, such as a taxi

If you want to learn more about defensive driving techniques, there are classes all over the state that can help. Learn more about the NDSC’s Defensive Driving courses here. We have classes in all major cities (and they qualify for a point reduction and insurance discount!).

Have fun this weekend and safe travels!
                                                                                                                                            

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10 Tips for a Safe Summer Road Trip

Summer is a time when a lot of us like to hit the road. Whether we’re heading to the lake for some sun or going across state lines to see family, the roads are going to be busy. This is a good time to remind ourselves about key safety tips to keep us, and our loved ones, safe while we drive.

Here are some simple tips to remember during your summer travels:

  1. Avoid distracted driving by refraining from cell phone use while behind the wheel.
  2. Set passenger restrictions for your teen drivers.
    Having even one passenger can increase a new driver’s crash risk by 48%.
  3. Always wear a seat belt – every trip, every time.
    Drivers and passengers who buckle up are 45% more likely to survive a car crash, and 50% more likely to avoid serious injury. (NHTSA)
  4. Make sure children are using restraints appropriate for their age, size and maturity.
    Click here for best practices from the ND Department of Health.
  5. Avoid fatigued driving.
  6. If you plan on drinking, designate a driver.
  7. Stay focused and be aware of other drivers on the road.
    Try to avoid other driver’s blind spots and be cautious at intersections.
  8. Keep your distance. Refrain from tailgating, and if someone is tailgating you, let them pass.
  9. Pay attention to weather alerts – it’s best to stay off the roads if there is a threat of flooding or severe thunderstorms.
  10. Be prepared. Keep a first aid kit and roadside safety kit in your car.

If you want to learn more defensive driving techniques, the NDSC offers Defensive Driving courses for both new and experienced drivers. Courses qualify for an insurance discount and point reduction.

Click here to learn more or call Terry Weaver at (800) 932-8890.

                                                                                                                                              

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Fourth of July: the great debate between safety and fun. Do we have to choose?

For more than a month, my family and I have been trying to make plans for the 4th of July. After failing at every attempt to book a camping site (apparently you need to book a camping site 6 months in advance around here), we accepted the fact we were “stuck” celebrating at my family farm. Usually our 4th of July celebrations include a trip to Lake Sakakawea or camping in Medora – both of which have relatively close access to a professional fireworks show. A few nights ago, my husband asked if my family does our own fireworks show. He figured, since we’d be out on the farm, we could all go together to buy enough fireworks to do our own show.

Instantly, I began a debate with myself. Every year since I began working for the NDSC, I have posted web stories and shared safety tips around the 4th of July – ALL of them urging the public to leave the fireworks displays to the professionals. So, do I uphold my title of Mrs. Safety and “practice what I preach”? Or should I be the fun wife/daughter/sister who says yes to buying hundreds of dollars of fireworks to shoot off?

Well, when it comes to my family, I pick my battles carefully. They don’t know it, but I am compromising with them (or maybe I had no choice in the matter). Either way, I took it upon myself to set a few rules for the family fireworks show:

  1. NO SPARKLERS.
    Sorry- I’m not going to letting my beautiful son, niece or nephew get burned by a 1,200 degree sparkler.
  2. NO ILLEGAL fireworks.
    Not that my family would EVER do anything illegal. :)
  3. ADULTS ONLY.
    The kids will be kept far away from wherever the fireworks are being lit.
  4. LOTS OF WATER.
    There will only be water to DRINK before the show, and lots of water nearby while lighting the fireworks.
  5. And last, but not least, DON’T BURN DOWN THE HOUSE.
    I love my parent’s house, so all fireworks will face away from the house and toward the reservoir.

As in years past, I still urge you to leave the fireworks to the professionals. This is the easiest way to stay safe AND have fun. But if you just can’t resist, or you find yourself in the middle of your own family fireworks show, please be sure to take precautions. Each year, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Don’t let your night end with a trip to the emergency room.

Stay safe and happy Independence Day!

                                                                                                                                          

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