children

You Should Know: Keeping Back-To-School Teen Drivers Safe

Road Safety Tips for Teen Drivers
Heading Back to School

Labor Day weekend is over and summer is in the rearview mirror. New backpacks are crammed full of the tools of learning: laptops, books, pens, pencils, notebooks and more. But what about the tools young drivers need to stay safe on the road? These tips can help the teen drivers in your life get from home to homeroom in one piece.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens head back to school, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

The Stats

Teens who text and drive are  outside of their lane   about 10 percent of the time.

Teens who text and drive are outside of their lane  about 10 percent of the time.

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received his or her license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19. 

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Download report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zones most often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a Parent-Teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules.

This article appeared in our September 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: Praising the Organizations That Make a Difference

These Justice Organizations Lead the Fight to Protect the Safety, Rights of All Americans

Every year for the Justice Served Awards issue, we celebrate injured people and their families who have stepped up to make America a safer, more just nation. This year, we’re shining a bright light on the organizations that tirelessly support and advocate for all Americans.

Center for Justice and Democracy

Located at New York Law School, the Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting the civil justice system. It investigates and exposes attacks on judges, juries, injured consumers and attorneys by powerful corporations and special interests. The Center also raises public awareness and support for the civil justice system and combats the dangerous campaign behind the so-called “tort reform” movement. The Center believes that “America’s civil justice system is one of the only places left in America where individual citizens can successfully challenge powerful industries and institutions and hold them accountable.”

Public Citizen

Founded in 1971 and based in Washington, D.C., Public Citizen “serves as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital.” The organization champions citizens’ interests before Congress, the executive branch agencies and the courts. Through its five policy groups – Congress Watch, the Energy Program, Global Trade Watch, the Health Research Group and the Litigation Group – Public Citizen fights to make sure government works for the American people and not corporate power.

Consumers Union

Consumers Union is the policy and action division of Consumer Reports magazine. It works with its activists and alongside subscriber input to pass consumer protection laws in states and in Congress. It holds dangerous and unsafe corporations accountable and celebrates those who put their consumers first. Consumers Union has helped pass consumer protection laws for healthcare, financial services, the food and agriculture industry, clean energy, the auto industry and more.

Consumer Federation of America

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy and education. Nearly 300 diverse state and national advocacy groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization’s Board of Directors.

Workplace Fairness

Workplace Fairness is a nonprofit organization working to preserve and promote employee rights. It believes that fair treatment of workers is sound public policy and good business practice. Workplace Fairness also supports and creates comprehensive, unbiased information about workers’ rights in order to empower employees everywhere. With this information, Workplace Fairness educates workers and organizations and advocates for fairness through awareness and public policy.

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ProPublica

Founded by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street JournalProPublica is an independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. These investigations shine a light on exploitation and work to create positive change. ProPublica is nonpartisan organization that works to adhere to strict standards of journalistic impartiality. It does not ally with any politicians or advocacy groups in order to provide an unbiased look at businesses, government, unions, education systems, healthcare organizations and the media.

The Leapfrog Group

The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality and safety of American health care. Its Leapfrog Hospital Survey program collects and transparently reports hospital performance, empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, Leapfrog’s other main initiative, assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents and infections.

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Safe Kids Worldwide

Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to protecting kids from unintentional injuries, the number one cause of death to children in the United States. Safe Kids does this through research reports, education and awareness programs and safety focused public policy. Since 1988, the work of Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60 percent.

 

This article appeared in our August 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: Watchful Parents Can Prevent Playground Injuries

School’s out for summer, and kids are bursting to get outside and hit area playgrounds. No surprise then that June is a particularly dangerous month for playground injuries. Before you let those kiddos loose, learn how adults are the key to playground safety with tips on equipment, clothing and safe behavior.

Adult Supervision Is the Number One Way to Prevent Playground Injuries

Seventy-five percent  of playground injuries take place on public playgrounds.

Seventy-five percent of playground injuries take place on public playgrounds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 200,000 children age 14 or younger are treated in emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries. More than 10 percent of these are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and the rate of TBIs is rising.

Because public playgrounds are numerous and easily accessible, most kids spend their time on these rather than private playgrounds. Thus, the largest percentage of playground injuries take place on public facilities. Monkey bars and climbing equipment are responsible for the highest number of injuries.

But despite the risks, we know kids love playgrounds and benefit from the exercise and social interaction. The good news: Adults can play a key role in keeping kids safe on their favorite playgrounds with these tips and resources:

Keep Your Kids Safe With These Tips

  • Areas underneath the equipment, known as fall surfaces, should be made of soft material such as wood chips, mulch, sand or rubber.
  • Inspect equipment for any piece (especially metal) that may be hot from the sun.
  • Watch for hazards or protrusions like bolts, hooks, stumps or rocks that could trip or cut children.
  • Look for neglected maintenance, such as rusty or broken equipment.
  • Make sure kids wear safe clothing. No loose scarves or hoodies with drawstrings, as these can become a strangulation hazard if entangled with equipment. Shoes should be comfortable for play and protect feet, like sneakers. Tie long hair back as well.
  • Make sure there are strong and sturdy guardrails to prevent falls.
  • Your children should be using age-appropriate equipment. Read all playground signs for warnings and instructions.
  • Most importantly, the best way to prevent injuries is parental supervision. Talk to your kids about appropriate playground behavior before you visit the playground and watch them while you’re there.

More Resources for Safe Playgrounds

To ensure your local playground is safe, the National Recreations and Parks Association has a network of Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI). The CPSI certification program provides comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues, including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods. To find your local CPSI, click here.

A thorough playground safety checklist and ranking tool, created by the National Program for Playground Safety, can be found here. If you see safety hazards or poorly maintained equipment, reach out to the owner as soon as possible. In most cases, this will be a school or park district. 

Keeping our kids safe while out on the playground is an issue we can all get behind, and one that benefits the community as a whole. So let’s all get out there and have some fun!

This article appeared in our June 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

Teens 50% of All Pedestrian Deaths, Ages 5 to 19 

Traffic deaths are up 6 percent since 2010, pushing U.S. road fatalities to the highest level in a decade. However, the percentage increase in pedestrian deaths is far outpacing those on the road, jumping 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Walkers on smartphones, bicyclists ignoring traffic rules, coupled with distracted driving, are a deadly combination. 

Teens, who are much more likely to walk distracted with a mobile device, make up 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths ages 5 to 19.

Our recommendations: 

Make sure your children understand the importance of looking both ways before they step out onto a roadway. Point out the traffic lights to them and explain their significance. Also, if an intersection is equipped with a pedestrian light, point that out to them and make sure they understand what the illuminated symbols mean. Stand on the corner for a full cycle of the light and pedestrian signal to make sure your children understand how they work and who has the right-of-way when. Never cross against the light with your children even if there is no one coming or if others are doing it. You do not want to teach your children bad habits or to take unnecessary risks. Impress upon your children that even if they have the right of way they should still look and be cautious because you can never assume that drivers are paying attention. It only takes one misstep. And finally read our May newsletter and discuss it with your children. Stay safe out there.

Guy W. Crabtree is a partner with Crabtree, Carpenter & Connolly, PLLC, in Durham, NC.

You Should Know: Oversharing Online Can Cost You

More than Half of Americans Admit Social Media Remorse

Average Daily Screen Time Nine Hours

The average adult now spends more than nine hours per day consuming media via screen, including smartphone, television, gaming or e-books. Twenty percent of that time is dedicated to social media. As too many of us have found out the hard way, all this time online can come with a price. As we click, scroll and post into 2017, protect yourself and your kids from these social media pitfalls. 

HEED THE TOP SEVEN WAYS USING SOCIAL MEDIA CAN GET YOU FIRED

More employers are looking at social media to screen potential candidates and monitor employees. Over 90 percent of employers use social media for recruiting, and three in four hiring managers check candidates' social profiles before an interview. Maintaining a professional social media profile for your chosen career can help you get that dream job as well as keep it. Twenty-eight percent of employers have fired workers because they spent too much work time on social media, and 18 percent because of an offensive post. 

Here are the top seven social media no-no’s for employees:

  1. Make racist, sexist or other offensive comments
  2. Complain about your job or your clients
  3. Share confidential information
  4. Post something inappropriate on company social media
  5. Use personal social media when you should be working
  6. Post drunk photos from work gatherings
  7. Broadcast your job search

Excess Screen Time Equals Health Issues

Screen time, whether in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone, can contribute to health issues in adults and children alike. Many hours spent in front of screens are causing an increase in headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision and eye strain.

Staring at a smartphone also creates what doctors call “text neck.” As a person bends their neck to look down at a phone, the added weight causes pressure, pain and strain. Here are some ways to keep your screen time (and your children’s) in check and your body healthy:

  1. Schedule children for regular eye exams.
  2. Take frequent breaks.
  3. Adjust for proper alignment. A digital screen should be centered and positioned about 4 to 5 inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches from the center of the screen to the eyes (for an adult), 18 to 26 inches for a child.
  4. Use anti-glare screens or position screens to avoid glare.
  5. LCD and high-res screens are easier on the eyes. Screen brightness should be adjusted to fit the surroundings.
  6. Blink frequently to keep your eyes moist.

Parents can visit the American Academy of Pediatrics for guidance on how to balance lifestyle with digital media and create a personalized family plan.

When Social Media Turns Anti-Social

Over half of Americans regret something they've posted online.

Over half of Americans regret something they've posted online.

Many people can navigate a healthy social media presence with intelligence and sense, but some are struggling to stay connected while staying safe. Kids are more likely to share personal details without thinking about the consequences, and connect with strangers who may be predatory. Recently, anonymous messaging apps like Kik have come under fire for allowing minors to message with strangers without alerting parents. Check out the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) OnGuard Online website for free online security tips and resources. 

Finally, the most important way to protect your kids from unsafe online behavior is to keep the lines of face-to-face communication open. Talk to them about the potential dangers and encourage them to speak to you if they ever feel unsafe online. As reliance on screens increases, so will the need for honest, IRL (your teen will tell you that means "in real life") conversations about what can or should be shared.

This article appeared in our January 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: Asbestos Still a Killer

Still Prevalent in Older Schools, Public Buildings, Homes

Asbestos is found in thousands of U.S. schools.

Asbestos is found in thousands of U.S. schools.

Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen, known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma while killing an average 15,000 people a year in the United States. Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally as a bundle of fibers, found all over the world. These fibers can be useful because they are strong, resistant to heat and many chemicals, and don’t conduct electricity. It is because of these qualities that asbestos has been used as an insulating material for hundreds of years.

Inhaling asbestos fibers is the most common way to be exposed. Although the use of asbestos is not as frequent today as it was during the early part of the 20th century, asbestos inhalation is still a persistent risk. Any time a building that has asbestos is demolished or renovated, asbestos can be released into the air. At the same time, materials that contain asbestos can break down over time and also release particles into the air. 

Changing Asbestos Legislation

Until recently the law of the land involving toxic substances was the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. This act provided the EPA with the “authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures.” TSCA included regulations for the production, importation, use and disposal of asbestos.

Unfortunately, this law had not been revisited for 40 years! However, on June 22, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a bipartisan bill that amends and updates the outmoded TSCA. The new law, which includes stricter regulatory standards, replaces TSCA’s old cost-benefit safety standard with a new health-based safety standard. This new standard opens the doors for the EPA to officially ban asbestos in the U.S., something it has been trying to do since the first Bush administration.

Preventing Asbestos Inhalation

Asbestos risks can be found everywhere, but there are ways to protect yourself and your children from exposure. Here is a brief overview, but click here for a complete guide to identifying and preventing potential asbestos risk.

At Work:

Your employer should be following all OSHA regulations for hazardous chemicals, but be sure to take your own precautions and report any unsafe working conditions.

  • Ask your employer about any asbestos-related health risks in your place of work.
  • Always wear protective gear when you may disturb asbestos.
  • Don’t bring home work clothes that may contain asbestos particles.
  • Always dispose of asbestos materials according to state and federal regulations.

At Home:

Most asbestos exposure occurs when homeowners do renovations that disturb asbestos. If you’re planning on tackling any home improvement projects, protect yourself and your family.

  • Some of the in-home items that may contain asbestos are: attic insulation, shingles and tar, drywall and popcorn ceilings.
  • If you have an older home, don’t perform DIY renovations where asbestos may be present.
  • Never attempt to remove asbestos without help from a professional abatement specialist.
  • Dangerous exposure may occur when you attempt to remove contaminated products, especially if you cut, saw, sand or drill them.

At School and Public Buildings

About half of all schools in the United States were built from 1950 to 1969, when asbestos was a common construction material. The EPA requires all schools to inspect any asbestos-containing materials every three years, as well as have an asbestos management plan in place. You can request to see a school’s management plan at any time. In addition, you can keep an eye out for any possible asbestos-containing materials, including:

  • Damaged drywall or plaster
  • Deteriorated tiles, roofing or ceiling panels
  • Chipped paint
  • Old heating or A/C 
  • Run-down steam pipes or boiler insulation
Where could asbestos be lurking in your home?  Click here  to expand.

Where could asbestos be lurking in your home? Click here to expand.

 This article appeared in our September 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.