Bike with care

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Danger zones for bicyclists

  • Nearly 70 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. To reduce that risk, check out this article on proper helmeting.
  • 51 percent of bicycle-related deaths occur between 3 and 9 p.m.
  • 71 percent of bike fatalities occur in urban areas
  • 35 percent of bicycle-related deaths occur in intersections
  • 79 percent of injured bike riders are 16 years and older
  • Alcohol is involved in over 34 percent of crashes resulting in bicyclist deaths.
  • Males represent 75 percent of bicycle-related injuries.

Tips for safe riding

  • Bicyclists must adhere to traffic rules of the road, which include riding in the same direction as traffic and obeying traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride in bike lanes when available.
  • Use hand signals to indicate changes in direction.
  • Watch for cracks, bumps and obstacles in the road.
  • Call out “on your left” before passing someone on the left or use a bell.
  • Be a courteous rider: Slow your speed and yield if possible when near other riders or pedestrians.
  • Look left-right-left before entering an intersection.
  • Use a bike that fits you properly, is in good working order, and has good brakes.
  • Wear shoes that prevent slippage and protect the feet with closed-toe shoes.
  • Be visible by wearing light clothing and using reflectors and lights.

Additional articles

–  The Beaumont, Royal Oak ThinkFirst chapter. Learn more here.

References:

  • ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Protect your melon

ThinkFirst about protecting your brain! A helmet can decrease the severity of a brain injury and even save your life. During a fall or crash most of the impact is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.

  • Helmets are 87 percent effective in reducing your risk for a brain injury.
  • Always wear a certified bicycle helmet that fits and is correctly fastened.
  • Replace any helmet involved in a crash or damaged.

Fitting a bike helmet

  1. Measure your head. Select a helmet that fits snugly, then try it on. Adjust as needed with pads or the universal fit ring.
  2. Place the helmet level on your head. The front of the helmet should be one to two finger widths above your eyebrows to protect the forehead.
  3. Adjust the slide on both side straps to form a “V” directly under and slightly in front of the ears. Lock slide if possible.
  4. Center the left buckle under the chin. Make sure the helmet is level. Adjust the rear or front straps to ensure the helmet is not tilting forward or back.
  5. Buckle the chinstrap securely so that no more than one or two fingers fit between the strap and your chin. Secure all straps in the rubber ring, close to the buckle.

Helmets are for more than biking

Always wear a helmet when:

  • Riding a bicycle, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle
  • Using in-line skates, a skateboard or a scooter
  • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey or lacrosse
  • Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Riding a horse

–  The Beaumont, Royal Oak ThinkFirst chapter. Learn more here.

References:
  • ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Halloween safety

kids in costume holding "Halloween" sign

As much as I loved Halloween as a child, experiencing it as a mother is even more fun. While it’s easy to get caught up in the preparation for school parties, finding or making the perfect costumes, and stocking the candy bowl, taking a few moments to focus on Halloween safety can make the night even more enjoyable. Below are a few safety tips to help you and your family enjoy a safe and happy Halloween.

Getting ready

  • Costumes should fit well to prevent tripping.
  • Choose hats or face paint instead of masks that could obstruct vision.
  • Make sure accessories aren’t dangerous. Swords or sticks associated with a costume should be flexible and wigs should be flame resistant.
  • Never use “one size fits all” contact lenses.
  • Have each person wear or carry a flashlight. Consider adding light-reflective tape to treat bags and costumes.

Going out

  • Accompany kids under age 12. With older kids, agree on a preplanned route and time to be home. Remind kids how to call 911 or for help if needed.
  • Only visit well-lit homes and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Be mindful of potential fire sources such as candles in lit jack-o-lanterns.
  • Discuss pedestrian safety with kids before going out.
    • Always walk on sidewalks and use cross-walks to cross streets.
    • If walking on a street without a sidewalk, keep to the far side of the road and walk facing traffic.
    • Put mobile devices away while walking.
    • Be cognizant of cars backing out of driveways. Teach kids to listen and look for back-up lights.

Coming home

  • Inspect all candy once home. Remove all homemade treats and those that may be spoiled or not fully sealed.
  • Some candies may not be appropriate for young children so adjust based on age.
  • Check ingredients for potential allergens if a child has a food allergy.

Take the time to make Halloween safety a part of your family’s tradition. With good preparation and a focus on safety, you can ensure that the night is full of only treats for your little ones!

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three young children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.

Is using a car seat covering safe?

woman carrying infant carrier with canopy

image credit: Amazon

As the winter months approach, children will soon be sledding down snow hills, building snowmen, and really little ones will be traveling in cold weather in their car seats. As a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), I can assure you that there are many steps that a parent can take to ensure their children stay warm and safe this upcoming cold season.

One recommendation is to avoid heavy, bulky coats on children harnessed in their car seats; there are many articles and infographics that discuss why this is important. However, there is a hidden danger that many parents are unaware of: using car seat covers or aftermarket canopies that cover your infant’s head for a long period of time while installed in his or her car seat.

Before diving into the research and reasons why this is potentially dangerous, let’s rewind for a minute. The practical reason for a covering children is to protect them from wind, rain and snow while you transport them in and out of the vehicle. As the parent of a winter-born baby, I can tell you that I covered my child with a blanket in his infant carrier many times after strapping him in the car during our Michigan winters. My job as a CPST is to provide you with information so you can make an educated decision about keeping your child safe.

There is an increasing amount of research that discusses how car seat canopies and other coverings are potentially dangerous. A specific concern is the risk of CO2 rebreathing. During the breathing process, your body inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide (CO2), maintaining a balance between these two gases. However, rebreathing CO2 can have harmful effects on the body. When an infant has soft, fluffy or loose fabric around his face, the carbon dioxide can build up around the baby’s head. Rather than breathing fresh oxygen, the baby is rebreathing the expelled CO2 (Blair, Mitchell, Heckstall-Smith and Fleming, 2008). Many babies may cry, turn their head or attempt to get out of this unsafe situation, however infants who are at-risk (i.e., preterm, respiratory concerns) may have extra difficulty notifying a caregiver they are struggling (First Candle – Rebreathing Carbon Dioxide and Suffocation as they related to SIDS, 2009).

In April 2014, Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) issued an executive statement regarding infant carrying that is applicable to car seat safety and any situation to where a child’s face might become covered and breathing could be compromised. It stated, “[C]overing a baby’s face makes it impossible to monitor a child’s breathing, in addition to putting the baby at risk for suffocation, or CO2 rebreathing.”

This does not mean that you have to expose your infant to cold weather and crippling winds when taking baby to the car in the winter. The key is to protect your child with a temporary cover. Use a receiving blanket to protect your child from the elements, but be sure to remove it once baby is secured in the vehicle. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommends against over-bundling and covering the face and head.

My recommendations

  • Avoid car seat canopies that strap onto the infant carrier’s handle. Parents often pull back the cover and leave the strap for convenience, but this poses a suffocation risk if the fabric accidentally falls down over the infant’s face.
  • Avoid car seat covers that zip close to a child’s face.
  • Always be aware of your infant’s airways and the car seat environment. We recommend using the “visible and kissable” phrase, which means keep your baby’s face uncovered and able to receive kisses at any given moment. This ensures that you can easily see and assess your child’s breathing while in the car seat.

Together we can ensure all babies stay warm and safe while traveling to and from the vehicle. As we know all too well, the sledding and snowman season will be here before we know it.

– Stephanie Babcock, CPST, is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s also the proud mommy of two boys.

Is your child in the right car seat? 

dad buckling young daughter into car seat

image credit: NHTSA Traffic Safety Marketing

Most people believe that their child is safely restrained in the correct car seat, and yet 80 to 90 percent of people are misusing their child safety restraint. That means 8.5 people out of 10 are either doing something with the car seat that they shouldn’t be, or not doing something that they should be. Today, we’ll review the basics of car seats and make sure that your kids are in that top 10 percent.

The first and best piece of advice for parents with kids in car seats is to have their seats inspected by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). You can register for a free inspection through Beaumont. Every time you get a new car seat or a new vehicle you should have your seat inspected by a professional.

Installation highlights

  • Installation standards require that you refer to both your car seat manual and your vehicle manual to achieve a safe installation. In general, however, remember to use either lower anchors or a seat belt to install the seat — never both.
  • Lower anchors have weight limits so always refer to your vehicle manual when using them.
  • Seats should be installed tightly enough that they move less than one inch from side-to-side at the belt path.
  • Rear-facing seats should also be installed at the proper level, which is usually indicated with a level indicator on the seat. Also, be sure that they do not touch the seats in front of them.
  • Forward-facing seats should be tethered using the belt at the top and back of the seat to prevent forward head momentum. Locations of top tether anchors are found in vehicle manuals.

Selecting the right seat

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its recommendations to say that children should be rear facing in child restraints until at least age 2, but longer if they can remain rear facing according to the height and weight limits of their seats. Many people shorten this recommendation to “Rear facing until 2.” However, the most important part of the advice is the second part referring to the height and weight limits of the seat. The best way to ensure that your child is using the right car seat is to check the label on the side of the seat. All seats provide labeling that gives the height and weight limits for car seats, and children should use those seats until they reach one limit or the other (height or weight). Using each restraint until its height or weight limit before moving to the next step ensures that a child stays as safely restrained as possible.

Restraining the child in the seat

While putting the seat properly in the vehicle is important, equally important is safely restraining the child in the seat.

  • Children using 5-point harness seats should have their harnesses snug at all five of those points (hips, shoulder and breast bone).
  • A strap is snug enough at the shoulders when no slack in the strap can be pinched at the shoulder from the front of the strap to the back.
  • Hip straps should sit low on the hip bone, with no more than one finger’s space between the strap and the hip.
  • Finally, the chest clip of a 5-point harness should sit at the armpit level of the child in order to ensure its position over the breastbone.

Other useful tips

  • Ensure that the car seat hasn’t reached its expiration date. Once a child passenger restraint has expired, it is no longer safe to use.
  • Register your car seats with their manufacturers so that you will be notified of any safety recalls. A recalled car seat needs to be repaired or replaced according to manufacturer directions.
  • Restrain any loose articles in cargo areas, storage pockets, or by using unused seat belts. Loose articles in a vehicle will tumble around the car in an accident, potentially causing injuries. Securing those loose items will keep both child and adult occupants of the vehicle safer.
  • Refrain from adding after market products to your car seat. Believe it or not, products sold in stores to go with car seats (e.g, extra shoulder strap covers, head and neck supports, mirrors, sun shades secured with suction cups, and seat protectors) take away from the safety of the child restraint and should not be used.
  • In the upcoming cold weather, put a blanket or jacket over your child’s harness in their seat (rather than under it) to ensure you have the snug fit of the harness that I covered earlier.

Remember: All a car seat needs to be perfect is your child!

– Nicole Capozello, CPST, Beaumont Parenting Program

Teaching kids why cars are not playgrounds

child sitting in driver's seat

Even if you live in a safe neighborhood, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of locking your unoccupied vehicle. Sadly there are, on average, 37 child deaths per year due to vehicular hyperthermia. The majority of the children who die in hot cars are accidentally forgotten; however, it is estimated that up to 30 percent of the time children are trapped inside an unlocked vehicle or trunk and they are unable to escape. Here are some tips to avoiding tragedy in your driveway:

  1. Always lock vehicle doors. Even if you don’t have young children, an open car creates opportunity for neighborhood kids to become trapped.
  2. Teach kids not to play in cars or trunks. The child locks on rear doors often prevent children from getting out, essentially trapping the child in the vehicle once they enter.
  3. Show your kids the emergency trunk release and instruct them how to use it. As of Sept. 1, 2001, all vehicles are required to have a glow-in-the-dark trunk release mechanism.
  4. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle. Watch this short video to see how temperatures can increase in a vehicle 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.
  5. If a child goes missing, we advise checking pools and nearby bodies of water first then vehicles and trunks second.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health

References:

Covert mission: How I sneaked a bike safety talk into a regular old bike ride

mom and daughter selfie wearing bike helmets

I tricked my 8-year-old daughter, Meadow, into learning bicycle safety yesterday. She thought she was going with me on her first bike ride outside of the neighborhood, but I had ulterior motives.

First, I showed her how we check our bicycles before riding for any potential necessary repair. We looked to make sure there wasn’t a loose or rusty chain, measured for proper seat and handlebar height, and checked the tire pressure.

We always wear our helmets, so we made sure they fit properly. (Side note: When we got home, I noticed my daughter’s “Y strap” had loosened up on her helmet and she had tucked it behind her ear. I reminded her how the helmet straps should lay for next time.) Helmets on and bike integrity checked, we changed out of our flip-flops and put on proper fitting tennis shoes and socks. Meadow cringed when I told her how my friend’s son had to get several stitches in the bottom of his foot from wearing flip-flops on his bike. Believe it or not, your feet can get really sweaty when you exercise and those suckers slip right off.

Ready to ride, we talked along the way about the importance of using your senses to look for danger:

  • Don’t let yourself get distracted by using your electronics.
  • Keep earbuds out so you can hear for sirens and cars.
  • Watch for the reverse lights in driveways for cars exiting.

When it came time to cross the street, we used designated cross walks, first looking left, right and then left again. I made sure Meadow saw how to make eye contact with cars at the intersection so they see us as we walk our bikes across the street.

We didn’t encounter any pedestrians, but we did a test run on how to alert them that we were approaching. Meadow rang her bell and yelled, “Passing on your left,” out loud.

Halfway through the ride, we took a quick break and I asked her what she would do if I had an emergency. She happily replied that she would call 911 on my cell phone to get help. I further questioned her how she would let them know our location and we did a scavenger hunt for notable landmarks and street signs. I pretended to be the dispatcher and we went over potential questions, such as my name, medical history, allergies and my husband’s phone number.

When we made it to our final destination, Meadow was surprised that we were at 7-11; she got a Slurpee for her reward. One last lesson was about visibility—she turned on her blinking head and tail lights since it was close to dusk.

The ride home was much quieter; we got to enjoy our mother/daughter time together and the beautiful views of our city.

For information on safe biking, check out these resources:

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health