In my nineteen years of practice, the job that is often the most heart wrenching is representing children injured or killed in accidents. Often the most difficult part for the families of these children is the realization that these accidents could have been easily prevented.
There are certain preventable accidents and injuries involving children that we see over and over again. Based on these cases, I would like to suggest 10 tips that if implemented in your home would dramatically reduce the likelihood of you ever experiencing the devastation of having your child seriously injured in a preventable accident. These 10 tips will certainly make your children safer and less likely to ever need the representation of our firm.
1) No bike riding near streets.
Children, busy roads and motorists do not mix. Always keep bikes and motorists separated. This may mean that instead of allowing your child to ride their bike in your driveway you will have to go to a nearby park. This inconvenience will not only keep your children safe, but is sure to create cherished memories for your children of the time they get to spend with you.
If you find this rule to be too impractical, I at least urge you to not let your children ride near traffic without the watchful eye of an extremely responsible adult. Even then, motorists are often to blame for these tragic encounters. So, again, simply mandating that children NEVER ride around cars is my rule at home.
2) If there is a Helmet built for it - Wear It!
Biking, river rafting, skiing, skate boarding, snowboarding, rollerblading ... the list of sports that have helmets as optional equipment is always growing. The reason helmets are being introduced into more sports, is because people who don't wear helmets while doing these activities are getting brain injuries. For the safety of your children, if there is a helmet made for the sport, purchase one and require your child to wear it.
3) No Go-Carts, Dirt Bikes, or Horses.
Go-Carts sit very low to the ground and drivers in normal sized cars cannot and do not expect to see them. Children involved in accidents involving Go-Carts and Automobiles often do not survive, because Go-Carts offer no protection at all to your child even if they have a "roll-cage". Every year children are run over and killed in these dangerous vehicles which are only meant for use at a closed track.
Dirt bikes should be called scar and bone breaking machines. They are awfully fun. But, so were lawn darts. Don't expose your children to these injury machines. There are plenty of other very fun and much safer hobbies for your child to become involved in.
Finally, horses. Yes, horses. Nearly every state in the union has passed laws called Equine legislation which acknowledges what everyone knows or should know: Horses are wild and unpredictable animals. Anyone who has ever had one will tell you of their falls from them and getting kicked by them. Though I am sure I'm offending someone right now, I'm not here to get your vote, I'm trying to save your child from a spinal cord injury. If you love horses and visits to the hospital, then ride them yourself, but please keep your children off them.
4) Use the Car Seat and Booster Seat Longer.
Car seats with five-point restraints are much better than the three-point restraints car manufacturers furnish the rest of us. NASCAR drivers recognize this and also use a five-point restraint system. Some of these seats can be safely used until your child is 10 or older. Use them as long as you can. Once your child graduates from the car seat, consider a booster seat. The booster elevates the child to make the standard three point seat belt work correctly with the smaller frame of your shorter child.
I suggest you insist your child continue using these items as recommended. Belting a small child in a normal seat belt can cause more internal damage than no belt at all. This is so important that you should be using these car seats and boosters well into the time period where it is causing daily embarrassment for your child.
5) No Guns in the House.
Ask your 5 year old where in the house you hide your loaded Glock - He will show you. Ask your 6 year old where the gun safe key is kept - He will show you.
Kids shoot other kids and themselves by accident every year at home. Look, I'm not calling into question your right to bear arms. But I am calling into question your sanity if you keep these weapons around children in your home. Get rid of the guns and have one less way your child might not make it to 18.
6) No Trampolines.
If you could only get rid of either your guns or your trampoline, leave the loaded gun on the kitchen counter but get rid of the trampoline. I'm kidding ... sort of. Get rid of both. But, the only safe trampoline is a disassembled and carted off to the dump trampoline. No net, cushion or devise will make this quadriplegic-maker safe.
7) Wear every Pad/Guard made for Skateboarding or Skating.
Skateboarding and skating are here to stay. Dangerous as all heck. But, nonetheless, here to stay. If you can't keep your child on the ground, arm them with every single pad, guard, brace, etc. that is made. I'm hoping this will make them decide through sheer embarrassment not to ride these crazy dangerous items.
8) Investigate your Daycare Facility.
Every year I represent at least one child severely injured because an under-staffed day care facility let a 3 year old do what he wanted. Even though Colorado Department of Social Services regulates these facilities, don't assume anything when it comes to these places.
After you have the scheduled interview and carefully choreographed tour with the director, drop in unexpected and see how things really look. In fact, do that a couple of times. Run the facility name and the director/owner's name on Google and see what comes up about safety, and contact Colorado Department of Social Services BEFORE your child's first day.
9) Know the Driving History of Anyone you Permit to Drive your Children.
This is common sense. My eight year old has been driven in his lifetime by 3 people other than his mother and me. Anyone can obtain a driving history of anyone else. This can be done for less than $10 dollars and can be obtained on line. Don't let your child drive with speeders, stop sign runners, or drunks.
10) Pools: Secure Them or Get Rid of Them.
Small children and pools are a recipe for disaster. There are electronic child proof covers that are affordable. There are alarms that children can wear which scream if a child makes contact with the water. In any event, the message I'm here to share is that if you own a pool and you are not prepared to child proof that pool consistent with the recommendations of a safety consultant, then you should make arrangements to back fill that pool with dirt and make a garden where your pool used to be. Your children, who now have a shot at making it to adulthood, will thank you for it.
The more adamant and proactive you get when it comes to child safety, the better. There are so many ways children get injured and die regardless of what we do as parents, that these ten items should only be the very tip of the iceberg. I hope this gets you thinking of other unsafe things in your house or yard that you should get rid of. Do it, children are a blessing and protecting them is your first and most important job.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we want for your children to be as safe as possible. We hope that you will never need our services for such a devastating accident. But if you do, rest assured that we will work hard to help you through this very difficult time in your life.