Governor Jon Corzine's near fatal accident prompted me to put together this piece on Safety for families which the Home News Tribune published on 5/16/07
Upon his release from the hospital, Gov. Jon S. Corzine remarked, "I set a very poor example for a lot of young people — a lot of people in general." He added, "I hope the state will forgive me, and I'll work very hard to set the right kind of example."
His poor example is known to all: speeding at 91 mph on the Garden State Parkway, which endangered others, and not wearing a seat belt, which nearly cost him his life in the ensuing crash. The good that should emerge from this near-tragedy is that individuals and families will be more safety-conscious in the upcoming summer months.
According to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 18 percent of students in ninth through 12th grades "rarely or never wear seat belts" when riding in a car driven by someone else. Not only must parents set a good example by buckling up, they must use the proper car seat for a child, starting from a baby's first ride home from the hospital. Inappropriately restrained children are 3.5 times more likely to suffer a severe injury in a crash. And what is the excuse that parents usually give for not using a child safety seat? Because "their child does not like it." Unforgivable!
Equally unforgivable is leaving a child unattended in a car. One in five parents rarely or never lock their cars at home. In 2003, 36 children died in hot cars. Additionally, if a child is left alone in a car with the keys, he can start the car, slip the car into gear, and cause considerable damage to himself and others. Recommendation: Lock your car at all times and never leave a child in a car unattended, even for two minutes.
Here's some more safety advice:
Bicycles: Properly fitted helmets are 85 percent effective in reducing head injuries. This pertains to skates, scooters and skateboards as well. Isn't it a disturbing coincidence that 86 percent of students (grades 9-12) rarely or never wear bicycle helmets? (YRBS)
Sports: According to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, 38 percent of all sports-related eye injuries result from baseball or softball. These sports are the main cause of facial injuries and eye injuries that can result in loss of vision. For $10, players can be equipped with a polycarbonate face guard on their batting helmets.
Pools: An adult must be within arm's length of a small child in a pool. And the adult must pay attention to the child. A small child can quickly drown in a kiddie pool, where the water is not even over the child's head. Swimming pool fences with self-latching gates are imperative for preventing pool drowning.
Sunburn: Millions of Americans get tans to improve their appearance, even though exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the most common cause of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 60,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma; approximately 7,700 will die from it this year. Pediatric melanoma is rapidly increasing as well. Parents must set a good example by using sunscreen (even on cloudy days), wearing sun-resistant clothing/hat, avoiding the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and never getting sunburn.
Last, is a topic that is dear to our hearts (and stomachs) — obesity. It is common knowledge that obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed in the past 20 years. Children who tend to be sedentary, will burn less calories. Who bothers to go outside and play when 38 percent of ninth- through 12-graders watch three or more hours of TV on a school day (YRBS)? And what's on TV? Frequent advertisements for junk food and supersized portions.
Physical Activity is imperative for addressing the obesity epidemic. While 44 percent of students are trying to lose weight, a mere 28 percent of students attend physical education class daily (YRBS). And parents should make every effort to have dinner with their children each night. It is one of the best ways to set a good example for eating properly and to have quality conversation time, provided the television stays off.
One last point regarding Governor Corzine as a role model: Apologizing for mistakes that affect others does "set the right kind of example."
"Be Counted" columnist Dr. Alan M. Singer blogs at http://www.familythinking.com/. He is a marriage therapist in Highland Park and can be reached at DrAlanSinger@aol.com