According to a recent study commissioned by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are over 200,000 people living with spinal cord injuries caused by sporting and recreational accidents in the United States. This summer, don’t put yourself at risk for serious injury by forgetting simple safety tips.
Don’t dive right in!
It is important to continue to educate kids as they get older about the risks of diving. “There are roughly 6,500 adolescents seen in the emergency room each year because of diving related injuries,” says Debby Gerhardstein, Executive Director of the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation.
“Posting, enforcement, and in-service training are all important,” says B.J. Fisher, President and Health & Safety Director for the American Lifeguard Association. “There should be a posting at least every 20-feet around the perimeter of a pool being enforced by the lifeguards.” Lack of signs and improperly trained lifeguards can hinder the safety of swimming areas.
Fisher also enforces the rule that diving should only take place in no less than nine feet of water.
A quick tip to remember: No board, no diving! “If there is no diving board, even in deep water areas, then don’t dive,” says Fisher. “No board should take away the right-of-way for diving.”
The American Red Cross suggests being aware of the surroundings and environment. Know the depth of the water and which areas are deep and/or shallow. According to ThinkFirst, injuries often occur when a diver hits the slope at the bottom of a pool that goes from deep to shallow water.
Pools mark the shallowness of the water, but oceans, lakes, and bays are not as easy to decipher the depth. Even hopping into the ocean to take a dip can be disastrous if one jumps in too quickly where the bottom is barely a foot away.
“There are no re-dos if you are seriously injured,” warns Ward Kovacs, Lieutenant of the Ocean City Beach Control in Ocean City, MD. “Check with lifeguards in the area of the water conditions,” says Kovacs, “and even be aware of any sandbars.”
Never dive directly into waves. According to Gerhardstein, “Many injuries occur when the diver’s angle is too steep and they hit a sandbar or object in the water.”
When body boarding, a combination of surfing and swimming, “hold the board so it extends past your head,” says Kovacs. “The wave can take control and decide where to put you.” The board can shield and act as protection if held correctly.
Two general safety tips are, always enter water feet-first and, of course, never combine alcohol and water-related activities.
Personal safety on personal watercrafts
Operating a personal watercraft (PWC) takes on the same responsibilities as driving a vehicle. While there are reckless drivers on the road, there are reckless drivers on the water. Just as someone behind the wheel should be experienced, so should someone behind the handle bars of a jet ski. Do not forget, at all times wear a life jacket when on a PWC.
The Personal Watercraft Industry Association suggests four tips for safe riding to avoid collisions on the water:
1. Scan constantly. Be watchful of other objects, swimmers in the water and watercrafts.
2. Be a defensive driver. Keep at safe distances and speeds.
3. Take early action. PWCs do not have brakes! Although operating a PWC follows many of the same general guidelines as operating a vehicle, this is a significant difference.
4. Just as a steering wheel and a gas pedal in a car are used to avoid a potential crash, so is a throttle handle on a PWC. When steering away from any object, do not release the throttle.
Driving your way to safety
Something as basic as failing to remember to buckle up and put on a seatbelt is sometimes forgotten in the midst of putting the windows down, tuning the radio, chatting, or even text messaging on your cell phone. The Reeve Foundation survey concluded that 300,000 people in the U.S. are living with a spinal cord injury due to a motor vehicle accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using a seatbelt decreases the chances you’ll get hurt by firmly keeping you in place. Buckling up is certainly safer than not; however, it is important to wear it correctly. Wearing a seatbelt incorrectly can be just as risky as not wearing one at all.
The bottom seatbelt strap should fit low and tight across your hips, not across your stomach. The upper/shoulder strap should be secured across your chest, not being tucked under your arm or behind your back. While traveling to a long awaited vacation, remember to have everyone in the vehicle click their seatbelt properly in place.
Car and booster seats should not go unnoticed. The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines age guidelines for types of seats. Infants should always ride rear-faced in a car seat until one-year-old and weighing 20 pounds. Toddlers follow the same guidelines as infants, but can ride forward-facing if over one-year-old and over 20 pounds. Booster seats are recommended for school-aged children who have outgrown a car seat. Children should remain in a booster seat until adult seat belts fit correctly, typically when a child is 4′ 9″ in height and between 8 and 12 years old. Keeping kids in the back seat of a vehicle is best. Remember state laws vary in height and age requirements.
The easiest tip to remember is simply to be alert, aware and responsible for yourself, passengers, and other motorists. Do not rely on others to be your eyes on the road.
Ride circles around bicycle safety
First and foremost, wear your helmet! No matter what age or on what path, bicycles and helmets go hand-in-hand.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reminds bicycle riders that all helmets should fit snug, level, and stable. A helmet should touch the head all the way around, including fitting low to cover both the top and sides of the head. Tightly securing the chin strap will prevent the helmet from wiggling or tilting back on your head.
Caroline Golum, of Bicycle Habitat in New York City, emphasizes the proper way to wear a helmet by lining the front part of your helmet parallel to your eyebrows.
“Make sure two to three fingers fit between your chin and chin strap,” says Golum. In other words, you should feel the strap tug if you open your mouth all the way. “And one finger should be able to fit between your helmet and your temple.”
According to Golum, helmets that are sized, as opposed to one-size-fits-all, are safer. A bicycle helmet that is loose and tilted does nothing but sit on top a head like a car ornament to a hood.
Most importantly, “a helmet should be replaced every three to five years because the Styrofoam tends to disintegrate,” Golum says. “Remember helmets are for one time use. If you have a bad crash and the impact cracks the helmet, replace it!”
These tips are simple, even obvious. The problem is, statistics prove not enough time is taken to carefully follow them. When you are enjoying yourself this summer, just pause a moment and think about what safety precautions you’re taking.
A safe summer awaits you.