Break Point!

Volume 3, Issue 7 View the Archives July, 2000
Break Point Walks To School
America's Kids are More Inactive than Ever
Is it Safe to Cross the Street?
Halloween Tricks and Treats
Surf's Up- A Guide To Internet Sites On The Web
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Break Points Walk To School

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

Walking is a great way to get exercise and simply to get around especially on a sunny fall day. Unfortunately, walking is not always safe. There are more parents driving their children to school each day, more distracted drivers on the road and an increase in aggressive driving make the roads more hazardous.

October 4, 2000 marks the third annual “Walk our Children to School Day. This event began in Chicago when Mayor Daley and local parents took to the streets and walked over 5000 children to school in an effort to “take back the streets”. The event has changed a bit over the years to raise the awareness of pedestrian safety. This year, countries from around the world will participate to make the streets safer for pedestrians, especially children.

Even if you drive your child to school or they are bussed to school, most children are pedestrians some of the time. They walk to the store or to a friend’s house. This issue of Break Point will be devoted to pedestrian safety.


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America's Kids are More Inactive than Ever

Providing walking places that are safe and accessible for our children can do more than just prevent tragic injuries and deaths. According to Mark Fenton, editor of Boston-based Walking Magazine, “if children walk regularly, it can also improve their health and set patterns that will carry them into adulthood”. “These days, in the age of video games and VCR’s, children are heavier and more inactive than ever”, said Fenton, who is a member of the “Partnership for a Walkable America- a coalition of private, state and federal organizations united together with the common cause of increasing public awareness about the benefits of walking.

“We’re essentially socializing kids to be inactive, kids naturally want to be active” Fenton said. As children get older, they begin to move around less. Children participate less in physical education and sports in school than in times past.

Obesity is a problem in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. According to the data, about one in every three Americans, ages 35-45, was obese as of 1991. This figure is 36% higher than it was in 1962. Obese children become obese adults. If the “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” conducted in 1990 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that teens spend more time watching television than they do exercising. According to the CDC study, just over 12% of teens, grades 9-12 engaged in 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity three or more times a week.

By contrast, about 70% of the students surveyed said they watched at least an hour or more of television every school day. About 35% of those surveyed said they watched 3 hours or more of television on each school day.

Fenton suggests parents in neighborhoods join together and approach their schools about starting a walking program. He said parents could even organize a “Walk to School Week” with different parents from the neighborhood volunteering to be a little late for work one day so as to serve as a volunteer crossing guard in their community for the event.

He added that local police could come into the school the week before the program to talk to the kids about pedestrian safety and the students could make posters announcing the event.

Increasing the physical activity of our children will lead to healthy behaviors in the future as well as positive effects on health and school work. Be a positive role model for your children, increase your activity and make a pact as a family to be healthy and fit.

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Is it Safe to Cross the Street?

Every one is a pedestrian. Each trip we take starts out with walking and ends with walking. Whether you take a trip to the store, walking the dog or a casual evening stroll you are a pedestrian and encounter cars each trip.

In 1996, more than 5,412 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related incidents in the United States. 82,000 pedestrians are injured and 50,000 of those are children. The prime victims of pedestrian crashes are children between the ages of 1-19. Many of the vehicle-pedestrian crashes are caused from unsafe crossing behaviors of children and adults.

Elementary age children are at greatest risk because of their limited developmental skills. Children of this age group:

  • Have a field of vision 1/3 narrower than an adults.
  • Are unable to determine the direction of sounds.
  • Cannot accurately judge the speed of distance of moving vehicles.
  • Lack the ability to understand how much time and distance is needed for a vehicle to stop.
  • Are easily distracted, and tend to focus on one thing at a time like a ball or a friend.
  • Are easily missed by cars because of their size.

These are some of the reasons children do not always make the best decisions when crossing the street. Some children overestimate their own abilities. Just what can be done to help protect your child against injury or death when crossing the street?

Set boundaries for your children. Show them where they can play safely and the limits beyond which they can’t go. Be prepared to enforce your rules.

As your children grow older teach them the basic rules for crossing the street. One of the best ways to do this is to take a walk with them demonstrating and explaining the correct way to cross as you go along. Being a good role model every time you cross the street with them, might be the most important thing you do in helping your children become careful pedestrians. Children will imitate what they see adults and teenagers do. If you walk out between parked cars, jaywalk or cross against the light, they will likely do the same.

Children need to be taught to STOP at the edge of the street and look Left-Right and Left again for vehicles before crossing.

Ask children what they see to determine that they know what they are looking for and not just turning their heads when they cross the street.

Intersections are more complex. Children need to look over their shoulder for vehicles that may be turning as they are looking left-right and left. Remember that even if there is a stop sign or a signal light drivers do not always obey the rules. Children should be taught to wait until the vehicle stops before venturing out into the street. When the light turns green, they should look for turning vehicles before stepping out into the street or crosswalk. Just because they can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver has noticed them.

Here are some additional safety tips for pedestrians of all ages:

No matter what age you are it is important to stop at the curb and look left-right and left again before stepping out into the street even when the light is green and the walk signal is on. Especially be alert for turning vehicles. Drivers of turning vehicles are often preoccupied looking for that opening in traffic they are not paying attention to pedestrians.

When waling in parking lots or past driveways, be sure and look for backup lights. Most motor-vehicle crashes occur in this manner when both the pedestrian and driver are in a hurry or not paying attention. Look for drivers in vehicles and listen for engine noise. If the driver doesn’t see you and indicate for you to proceed, then just wait for them to get out of the way.

If no sidewalk is present and it is necessary to walk in the roadway, walk to the left side of the road, facing traffic.

When walking after dark, wear brightly colored clothing. It is often better to wear reflective materials. Drivers can see pedestrians up to 500 feet away when a person is wearing reflective materials, which allows for adequate time to stop a vehicle.

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Halloween Tricks and Treats

Most people think of Halloween as a time for fun and treats. However, roughly four times as many children aged 5-14 are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year, and falls are a leading cause of injuries among children on Halloween. Many Halloween-related injuries can be prevented if parents closely supervise school-aged children during trick-or-treat activities.

Parents can help prevent children from getting injured at Halloween by following these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Safety Council.

Children Should:

  • Go only to well-lit houses and remain on porches rather than entering houses.
  • Travel in small groups and be accompanied by an adult.
  • Know their phone number and carry coins for emergency telephone calls.
  • Have their names and addresses attached to their costumes.
  • Bring treats home before eating them so parents can inspect them.
  • Use costume knives and swords that are flexible, not rigid or sharp.

When walking in neighborhoods, they should–

  • Use flashlights, stay on sidewalks, and avoid crossing yards.
  • Cross streets at the corner, use crosswalks (where they exist), and do not cross between parked cars.
  • Stop at all corners and stay together in a group before crossing.
  • Wear clothing that is bright, reflective, and flame retardant.
  • Consider using face paint instead of masks. (Masks can obstruct a child's vision.)
  • Avoid wearing hats that will slide over their eyes.
  • Avoid wearing long, baggy, or loose constumes or oversized shoes (to prevent tripping).
  • Be reminded to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.

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Surf's Up - A Guide to Internet Sites on the Web

Since this month’s Break Point is devoted to youth violence, it would be appropriate to give some information to parents of teenage children.

The Parenting Project

This site has articles of interest and is a good resource for parents of teens and teens about to be parents. There are resource links to help parents deal with issues from child abuse to youth violence.

National Network for Child Care

A site devoted to parenting teenagers, the myths many parents believe and provide insight into what teenagers believe and are capable of.

This site contains useful information to parents of adolescents. The topics range from emotional issues of teen years such as youth violence, date rape and peer pressure. It also provides parents and teens with helpful information such as homework help and financial aid for school.

This site also has a slang dictionary to keep parents in touch with what teens are talking about and help bridge the generation gap.

There is a kids recipe section that gives kid friendly recipes that help bring you and your kids together in the kitchen.

The Coroner’s Report

This site is dedicated to information and resources on gang intervention and prevention.

This site has a parent’s resource guide to make parents aware of the warning signs of gang activity. See past issues of the “Coroner’s Report” newsletter. This site has a search engine and has key topics to choose from related to youth violence.

Health Finder

Smart Choices is a teen site that covers many subjects of interest directed at teens. Subjects range from questions about adolescence to motor vehicle safety.

Adults and seniors have areas on this website that offer broad based health information. This site also has a search engine to look up specific areas of interest.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Fireworks Safety Month (through July 4)
  • Impaired Driving Enforcement Mobility Weekend (through July 4)
  • National Sobriety Checkpoint Weekend (through July 5)

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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