Distractions play a crucial role in car crashes, study says

Chances are you’ve let your mind wander while driving, but that’s more dangerous than you may know. Those little distractions, even if they seem harmless, often result in car accidents, according to a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The extensive study, published Feb. 22, assessed footage shot inside more than 3,000 vehicles over three years.  During that time, researchers observed more than 900 crashes, almost three-quarters of them caused by distractions such as texting, changing the radio or looking at a cell phone. The researchers found that drivers were “clearly distracted” in almost 70 percent of observed accidents, and not surprisingly, the findings link cell phone use to many crashes.

You can read more about the study at the NIH, but the takeaway is simple: Distracted driving leads to accidents, no matter what you’re doing or how long you’re distracted.

Understanding your bad driving habits is the first step toward being a safer driver. There are three kinds of distractions while driving: manual, visual and cognitive. Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel, visual distractions take your eyes off the road, and cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving.

Check out these six tips for avoiding distractions.

  • Turn it off. Before you get in the car, turn your cell phone off or switch to silent mode. You can wait, and so can others.
  • Be prepared. Review maps and directions before you get on the road. If you need help while driving, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the maps/directions again.
  • Secure pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you drive.
  • Keep kids safe. Pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand. Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, reading and any other activity that may take your eyes off the road.
  • Don’t text and drive. It’s the law.

Next steps:

  • Read the Safe Kids Fayette County guide to preventing accidents while driving and get the hard facts about texting behind the wheel.
  • Check out the NIH story for more details on how distracted driving is causing accidents.

Safe sleep tips for newborns and infants

Did you know that unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury-related death among children younger than 1? Safe Kids and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the following tips to help create a safe sleeping environment for newborns and infants:

  • Always place infants on their backs to sleep, even for naps.
  • Keep your baby’s sleeping area free of anything that may obstruct their airway and increase the risk of suffocation, such as loose bedding, blankets, quilts, stuffed animals and pillows. This includes other children and adults.
  • Babies should sleep alone in their own safety-approved crib or bassinet. For information on crib safety standards, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
  • Sharing your room is a safer option than having your baby sleep in bed with you.
  • Do not allow your baby to sleep in sitting devices such as couches, chairs or even car seats.
  • Keep your baby’s sleeping areas smoke free and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Try not to be tempted to dress your baby in too many layers. Consider using a sleep sack to keep him snuggled comfortably without the risks associated with loose blankets.

Next steps:

  • Visit Safe Kids Fayette County for more information about preventing childhood injuries and keeping the kids in your life safe.
  • Follow Safe Kids Fayette County on Twitter.
UK HealthCare's tips for snow day safety

Tips for a fun, safe snow day

Snow days are a fun time for kids, but winter weather can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Here are some tips to make sure your child has an enjoyable day in the snow.

General safety

  • Use the buddy system. Kids should play in the snow with one or more friends, and an adult should supervise children under the age of 8.
  • Make sure kids take frequent breaks inside and that they’re staying well hydrated. Even in cold weather, it’s important to drink water after exercise and play.
  • Check kids periodically to make sure clothing and shoes are warm and dry. Wet clothing should be removed immediately.

Bundle up

  • Before kids head outside, dress them in layers. If they get too warm, they can remove one layer at a time.
  • Use mittens instead of gloves.
  • Make sure children always wear a hat and have their ears covered to prevent frostbite.
  • When kids return inside, make sure to remove all wet clothing immediately.

Sledding safely

  • Kids should wear a fitted helmet while sledding. Ski and hockey helmets provide more protection than bike helmets.
  • Ensure handles on the sled are secure before use.
  • Children should never sled on or near roads.
  • Always sit up or kneel on a sled. This helps prevent head and neck injuries.

Snow forts

  • Children should not play in snow forts or tunnels. They can collapse and cause suffocation.
  • Ensure kids stay away from snow banks near roadways. Snowplow drivers may not see children.
Snow day safety tips from UK HealthCare

Source: Safe Kids Fayette County

Tips for a safe holiday trip

November marks the beginning of heavy travel as families and friends gather for the holidays. Whether you and your family are going by plane, train, boat or automobile, remember to keep safety in mind for each member of your family.

The facts

  • Holiday travel is a time when there is a risk of injuries in a variety of areas.
  • Road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children.
  • Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

Top 10 holiday tips

  1. Check your car seat before holiday travel. Be familiar with the child safety restraint laws in the state you will be traveling to (or through).
  1. Bulky coats and car seats don’t mix. If it’s cold outside, cover babies and young children with a thick blanket to keep them warm, after they’re strapped securely into their seat. Bulky winter clothes and coats can keep a car seat harness from doing its job.
  1. Use booster seats and the backseat. Kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harness seat are not ready for a seat belt or front seat yet. They are safest in a booster seat that enables the adult seat belt to fit properly. Even when children have transitioned from booster seats, they should remain in the back seat until they reach the age of 13.
  1. Have an exit strategy for fussy kids. When you hear the all too familiar howl that means “I want food” or “change my diaper,” don’t worry about making good time. Instead, get off at the next exit and find a safe area to feed or change your child.
  1. Remember the car seat for air travel. If traveling by air, use a car seat that is labeled “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” For babies and toddlers, this is the safest way to travel.
  1. Keep medicines and small objects out of sight. Before arriving at your destination, talk to friends and relatives about being extra careful to keep small objects away from young kids. This includes medications, which can look like candy, button batteries, and other objects that are small enough for children to swallow.
  1. Engage older kids in cooking. It can be fun to get kids involved holiday meal prep. It’s also a great chance to teach them kitchen safety tips.
  1. Double check fireplace screens. Check to see if the home you’re visiting has any fireplaces and make sure they’re protected by a sturdy screen. Keep little ones away from this area.
  1. Plan for safe sleep and more. Make sure your baby has a safe place to sleep such as a portable pack-n-play. It’s a great time to check that where you’re staying has a working carbon monoxide alarm and smoke alarm.
  1. Wear proper gear for winter sports. Send kids outside in the cold with proper gear such as helmets when they’re skiing, snowboarding or playing ice hockey.