Ah, summer. Vacations, picnics, outdoor sports and recreation like camping and boating all add up to summer merriment. The downside of sipping sangria poolside (fun) or trying out a jet ski (really fun) is that all this hot weather revelry creates extra safety concerns and mishaps (not so fun). Nothing turns the sun-kissed days of summer into a drag faster than hobbling around on crutches.
As temperatures spike, so does the prevalence of injuries and accidents. Summer is dubbed “trauma season” by medical pros who know that when schools let out, the ER starts buzzing. Every year, four out of 10 people are treated in emergency departments. That’s almost 130 million visits, of which about 38 million are injury-related. And those unintentional injuries not only inflict physical pain—they are financially painful, costing more than $790 billion annually.
To avoid becoming a summer statistic and stay safe, you and your family can take a few key precautions:
1. Drive diligently
Whether road tripping National-Lampoon style or cruising down to a local park or lake, your chances of getting in a car wreck are higher in the summer than any other time during the year. In fact, fatalities from motor vehicles are highest in July, and seven of the top 10 deadliest driving days annually occur in June, July and August.
For teenage drivers, “the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer” from Memorial Day to Labor Day are especially perilous. More free time for teens means more frequent, recreational driving, and distractions like fellow passengers and texting can lead to tragedy while behind the wheel.
For all driving excursions, follow these safecar.gov tips: stay alert; don’t drive if you are drinking or overly fatigued; make sure your vehicle is well maintained; pack an emergency kit; and stash the cell phone.
2. Helmet Up
Forget looking cool or fashionable. Traumatic brain injuries can cause lasting disabilities. Before hitting the pavement or playground on a bike, scooter or skateboard, don’t forget to don the holy grail of protection: a helmet and other safety gear like knee and elbow pads.
Studies on bike helmets show they can reduce head injuries by up to 85 percent. And since bike-related deaths soar about 45 percent in summer months, it’s crucial to make sure helmets fit properly. That means whether you ride a horse or an ATV, the correct helmet should fit snugly, cover the front of your head and not tilt back on the crown.
3. Watch the Water
In 2010, 3,600 people died from drowning, including swimming and other water accidents. The incidence of children drowning spikes during the summer, and for every child who drowns, another four will head to the ER for related injuries.
When it comes to water, vigilance reigns supreme. Don’t underestimate the unpredictability and power of water; even rivers and lakes can have undertows. Never leave a child alone or take your eyes off them when near water—at a pool, beach or water park. Assign a designated water watcher. Wear life jackets, and skip all alcohol when operating a boat or other water sporting equipment. Alcohol and water do not mix and can be a fatal combination.
4. Avoid the Burn
Summer wouldn’t be the same without Fourth of July fireworks, barbecue grills and campfires. But in 2010, fireworks resulted in approximately 15,500 reported fires and 8,600 trips to the ER. One of the most common injuries occurs when someone goes back to relight a firework when its fuse doesn’t appear to catch, and it explodes.
Always respect fire and keep kids at bay around outdoor cooking grills, smokers and fire pits, being particularly attentive to white hot ashes, charcoal and lighter fluid.
5. Assess Backyard Hazards
People often get a false sense of security in and around their own homes. But dangers lurk during warm weather with lawn mowers, yard equipment, open windows, jungle gyms and trampolines.
Since falls are the leading nonfatal, unintended injury to kids, home play equipment like swing sets, slides and jungle gyms should be on a safe, soft surface of mulch or woodchips. Trampolines should have safety walls and shock-absorbing spring coverings. The rule should be only one person bounces at a time.
To ensure safe mowing and avoid gnarly injuries, keep small children out of the yard. Stop mowing or weed trimming if kids enter the area. Riding mowers are not for joy rides; keep kids off.