Each and every year fire departments respond to thousands of emergencies
involving pedestrians. Traffic related incidents account for more than one-third
of the fatalities in children under 14 years of age. According to the
Department of Transportation, more than 1,000 children die each year as pedestrians.
A common myth is that pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way.
Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks and
designated pedestrian crossings with signals. Many pedestrian vs.
vehicle incidents are the fault of the pedestrian. It is important for
children and adults to learn safe pedestrian skills.
Knowing the correct way to walk near traffic and how to cross the street
is vital to a person's health and well being. With adult supervision, a
child's ability to deal with traffic can improve dramatically.
Several factors make children susceptible to car vs. pedestrian
incidents. Among them, children:
Have a lower profile in traffic
Have a narrower field of view
Cannot detect the direction of sound
Cannot accurately judge the approach of vehicles
Once in motion, like to stay in motion
Mix fantasy with reality
Often only concentrate on one thought at a time
The most common cause of pedestrian incidents involving children occur
when they dash out into the street at mid-block, for example, to chase a
ball, or when they run through an intersection.
Many children are injured or killed because they ride unrestrained in a
vehicle. More than 75 percent of these incidents could
have been prevented by the use of correctly worn seat belts or approved
child safety seats.
More than 5,000 children die each year as passengers in vehicular
crashes. In many cases, no safety belt was worn and the
child was sitting on the front seat during a short trip. In some cases,
a child was riding unrestrained in back of an open pickup truck bed or camper.
Children must understand the importance of seat belt use. In fact, it's
the law! Putting on a seat belt should become a routine
habit. While there are a variety of reasons why people don't use seat
belts, most are based on misconceptions and fallacies.
We can expect to be in a car crash once every 10 years and a serious one
every 20 years. At some point in their life, 85
percent of the population will be involved in a serious car crash. The
forces involved are horrendous. A 150 pound person
exerts a force of more than two tons in a 30 mile per hour collision.
Yet, seat belts can reduce injuries and medical costs by 50 percent.
Proper use of the seat belt and shoulder strap is important. When using
a seat belt, make sure to hear the "click" when you
buckle-up. The seat belt and shoulder strap should be positioned snugly
across the hips and shoulders. A seat belt incorrectly
positioned above the hips may result in serious injury to abdominal
organs in an accident. Likewise, the shoulder strap should
be placed directly over the shoulder. Otherwise, a neck injury may
result during a collision. Finally, avoid excessive slack in the belt.
Children should never share the use of a seat belt and they should not
take their seat belts off until the vehicle has come to a
complete stop. They should never sit in anyone's lap in a moving
vehicle. A child sitting in someone's lap is the single, most dangerous
place to be in a crash. It is impossible to hold them in a collision.
Protective car seats should be used from the first time the child is in
a car until they are big enough to use an adult seat belt
properly. Age appropriate car seats and snug straps are available. It is
important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for
correct use. Infant safety seats are designed to face the rear of the vehicle.
Always check the seat to ensure that the harness and belt are snug and
secure. If a vehicle is equipped with a passenger
side air bag, place the infant safety seat rear-facing in the back seat
of the car. Do not use infant seats in the front seat of
vehicles with passenger side air bags. Some models of infant carriers
convert to safety seats. Some carriers convert to infant
safety seats while others convert to convertible safety seats. The
convertible safety seats can be used from birth until the
child weighs about 40 pounds. Make sure to follow manufacturer
instructions, especially if they require a top tether strap to
be secured. This strap should be secured to the rear seat belt when used
in the front seat. If you do not plan to properly tether the strap every
time you transport the child, don't purchase this type of seat.
For children weighing more than 20 pounds and who can sit up, toddler
seats can be used. Some of these types also require a
tether strap for complete security. As a child gets older, he can be
placed in an approved booster seat, which is designed to
fill the gap between a child seat and regular use of a seat belt. Make
sure to use booster seats with upper torso support,
either by using a lap and shoulder belt, or by using the body harness
supplied by the manufacturer. Both toddler seats and
booster seats can be placed in the front seat of vehicles equipped with
air bags. You must follow the manufacturer's instructions
carefully when installing child safety seats. The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends their use until the child reaches 60 pounds.
Adult seat belts should be used for children when they have outgrown
their safety seats. The belt should be snug and should
rest as low as possible on the child's hips. If the shoulder belt
crosses the child's face or neck, it should be placed behind the child's
back after the buckle has been fastened.
Facts and Figures
Each year 15,000 lives could be saved if everyone wore seat belts. At 30
miles per hour, an unrestrained passenger weighing
150 pounds exerts the force of more than two tons as it crashes against
another object. This is enough to kill!
Only 61 percent of Americans always use their seat belts when they're
driving in their car. Another 30 percent sometimes use the belts and 9
percent never do.
Myths About Seat Belts
I don't need a seat belt when driving at slow speeds or on short trips.
All driving is dangerous. Fatalities have been recorded as slow as
12 miles per hour on non-belted occupants. Most
crashes occur at speeds less than 40 miles per hour. Of all
crashes, 75 percent occur within 25 miles from home.
Seat belts are uncomfortable and too confining.
Seat belts are designed to allow motion around the vehicle. They
provide plenty of freedom without compromising
safety. They are designed to activate immediately should a car come
to a sudden halt. After regular use, seatbelts are very comfortable.
If I wear a seat belt, I might get trapped in a burning car or
caught in one underwater.
Less than 1out of 200 traffic related incidents involve fire or
water submersion. Even so, you're much more likely
to be knocked out and rendered unconscious if you're not wearing a
belt. Your chances of escape are better while wearing a seat belt.
I might be saved if I'm thrown clear of a car in a collision.
You are 25 times more likely to be killed in a crash when thrown
from a vehicle. The force of an impact can throw you 150 feet...15 car
lengths! Seat belts also prevent you from smashing your head into the
windshield, which could cause spinal damage.
When I see a collision happening, I'll brace myself.
Crashes happen in the blink of an eye. It is impossible to prepare
for crashes, and the forces generated are enormous.
I don't want to offend my passengers by telling them to buckle up.
Most people willingly put on seat belts if someone only reminds them.
Airbags are passive restraint devices hidden in the steering wheel or
dashboard of many cars manufactured today. A passive
restraint device is one that operates automatically. In contrast, a seat
belt is an active restraint device and must be connected to operate.
Airbags operate in the blink of an eye and do not obstruct driver
visibility or reduce driver control. Several sensors are
located in the bumper and front engine compartment of a vehicle. You
cannot activate an airbag by beating the bumper with
a sledge hammer. However, in a frontal crash, these sensors activate
simultaneously. When activated, they expel a non-toxic
nitrogen gas which fills a nylon bag. It inflates like a balloon to
provide a cushion to passengers propelled forward by the force of an impact.
A common misconception is that one doesn't need to wear seat belts if
they have an airbag. This is not true. They should be
used in conjunction with lap and shoulder belts for maximum safety.
Airbags are designed for frontal crashes, and activate
by the sudden impact of 12 miles per hour or more. They do not provide
optimum safety in side impact, rear impact, multiple impact or rollover crashes.
Although noisy during filling, they will not damage hearing. The
nitrogen gas expelled is non-toxic and cannot cause harm.
When deflated, a white powder will be seen. This is talc powder and
non-toxic. Once an airbag has been activated, it cannot be used again
and must be replaced. This will cost about $350. Many insurance
companies will cover this expense.
Gasoline should be stored in tightly capped and labeled safety cans that
have flame arresters and pressure-relief valves - never in glass or plastic jugs.
If you must siphon gasoline, use a hand-operated pump - not your mouth.
Never store gasoline in the trunk of your car. The vapors can ignite and
cause an explosion. Or, a rear end collision that could otherwise be
minor could result in a tragedy.
If your car has a catalytic converter, don't drive through or park in
areas of dry grass or leaves. The intense heat generated by catalytic
converters can ignite the grass or leaves.
Unless you are tuning your car, never run your car with the carburetor
air-cleaner removed. The air-cleaner device functions
as a flame arrester in the event the engine backfires. If it is not in
place, a backfire can easily ignite spilled gasoline or oil on the engine surfaces.
Never discard smoking materials out the window. Use your ashtray. Carry
and maintain an approved fire extinguisher in your car. Know how to use it.
The following are the "Five P's" or basic principles for effective driving:
Perception - Perceive the complete picture of what is ahead by
rotating your eyes 180 degrees, looking to the horizon and scanning from
side to side. That way you will see what is developing before it becomes a problem.
Planning - Go through various driving situations in your mind and
think through "escape route" options to prepare yourself beforehand for unexpected hazards.
Prevention - Practice defensive driving and be ready to adjust to
the other person's mistakes. Give yourself time to react so that you can
remove yourself from another driver's foolishness.
Publicity - Broadcast your driving intentions early enough so that
other drivers have time to react to you. Make eye contact when possible.
Avoid sudden movements and be as visible as the situation requires by using turn signals.
Proper - Proper attitude is very important in safe driving. Many
collisions are caused by bad decisions influenced by anger, speed and
frustration. When emotions run high, recognize and neutralize any
tendency to forego safe driving practices.
Driving at Night
While only about one-third of all traffic-related incidents occur at
night, more than half of the fatalities stem from nighttime
driving. In fact, based on miles driven, there are two and a half times
more fatalities at night than during the day. This is
because less light is available and vision is restricted. Night vision
varies considerably among people. Older people generally
cannot see well in the dark and eyestrain can substantially reduce night
vision. Bright light, such as lightning or high beam headlights, can
cause temporary blindness at night.
Headlights on low beam illuminate the roadside for about 150 feet. On
high beam, visibility will be 350 to 400 feet. At 55
miles per hour, it takes 4.5 seconds to cover 350 feet. For night
driving, control speed so that your stopping range is within headlight range.
To improve your visibility and the ability of others to see you, do the following:
Turn your headlights on at dusk, and leave them on until full daylight
Keep your headlights clean and properly aimed
Replace burned-out headlights immediately
Dim your high beams within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle or
within 300 feet of a vehicle in front of you
Never stare into the high beams of another car; guide your vehicle
by watching the right edge of the road
Do not flick your high beams up and down to remind another driver
to dim his bright lights - it can blind him temporarily
Never use high beams when going into a curve
Keep your windshield clean, inside and out
Keep your instrument panels dim
Keep your eyes moving; avoid focusing on any one object
Keep a bottle of windshield or glass cleaner in the cab for mirrors
and interior windshields
Keep your windshield wiper blades clean. Wiping the blades with
club soda or carbonated water will significantly reduce streaking.
If the washing solution under your hood does not leave the glass
clean after 10 wiper cycles, replace the blades and/or use a stronger
concentration of washing fluid.
Between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., be particularly alert for drunk or
drowsy drivers. If you notice another car with erratic speeds, weaving
across lanes, or delayed starts at intersections, use extreme care in passing.
Driving in Bad Weather
Bad weather affects your ability to control your vehicle. Stopping on
wet pavement takes approximately twice the distance
as stopping on dry pavement. On ice or sleet, it takes you five times
the distance to stop. Leave extra space between you and the vehicle in
front of you in any kind of bad weather.
About six times more people are killed on wet roads than on snowy and
icy roads combined, and when it starts to rain, the
roads are the most slippery. When the road is wet, your vehicle
"hydroplanes" - the front tires literally lift so that the vehicle
is riding on a film of water rather than the actual pavement.
Hydroplaning begins at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour if the tires
are worn. Do the following when driving on wet roads:
Avoid sudden braking and sudden moves of the steering wheel
If you are about to go through a large standing pool of water, slow
down and turn on your wipers before you hit the water. As you leave the
water, tap the brake lightly a few times to dry it out. If the car pulls
to one side, pump the brake slowly and smoothly to dry the brake out.
If you begin to hydroplane, hold the wheel steady, take your foot
from the accelerator and gently pump the brake. If
you turn the wheel from side to side to try and get down through
the water, or if you jam on the brake, you probably will skid.
When visibility is poor, such as in foggy weather, do the following:
Slow down but avoid decelerating suddenly
Watch the road ahead and behind carefully for other cars that are
traveling slowly or without lights
Turn on your lights, regardless of the time of day. Never use the
high beam on your headlights.
The reflection of the beams from the fog will actually reduce your
visibility. Even if the lights do not improve your own visibility (as in
daylight), they will make it possible for other motorists to see you better.
If you need to slow down, tap your brake pedal several times so
Animals in the Road
If you encounter an animal running into the road, do the following:
Gauge your reaction by the size of the animal and your vehicle speed.
Try to avoid the animal by slowing or swerving, but remember that
it is better to hit a small animal (dog, cat, rabbit, etc.) than to risk
losing control of the vehicle.
Hitting a large animal (horse, deer, cow, etc.) will have an impact
equal to hitting another vehicle. Remove your foot from the accelerator,
steer the vehicle in the opposite direction from the one in which the
animal is running and be prepared for the animal to stop suddenly. Do
not jam on the brake. Keep all steering wheel and brake motions smooth.
Be alert for children who may run after the animal.
Front tire blowouts are most dangerous, because loss of a front tire
dangerously interferes with the steering of the car. You
may hear an explosive boom, and the vehicle will veer suddenly to the
side of the blown-out tire. To regain control, follow these steps:
Take your foot off the accelerator, giving the car a chance to slow down
Hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands - expect it to be difficult to steer
When you have gained control of the steering, put on the brake
slowly; avoid locking the wheels.
Come to a gradual and complete stop. If you can, pull off of the
roadway or pull to the right shoulder of the roadway so that you can
safely change the tire.
In case of brake failure, do the following:
Attempt to slow the vehicle, both manual and automatic, by downshifting
Then gently apply your parking brake. You cannot pump an emergency
brake. Remember that this is a cable brake.
The rear wheels may lock if you apply too much force and the
vehicle will probably pull to one side.
Pump the brake pedal rapidly. It may build up pressure in the brake
lines and restore some braking force.
If you have to collide with something, choose an impact-absorbing
object, such as a clump of shrubs or a chain-link
fence. Avoid head-on collisions - sideswipe whatever you hit.
At slow speeds, simply turn off the engine and let the vehicle coast to a stop.
Unfortunately, vehicle crashes occur. Most often citizens will be at the
scene of the crash before fire units are there and it is important that
they know what to do correctly or, in some cases, what not to do.
Be sure that someone has called 9-1-1.
Is the scene itself life-threatening? For example, a car hits a
tanker that is now leaking an unknown substance. Since
you are dealing with an unknown, the patient should immediately be
removed a safe distance from the leak regardless
of his condition. As best as possible, however, immobilize the
patient's head and neck during movement.
If the scene is not immediately life threatening assess the
patient's condition and manage critical situations first. Does
the patient have a clear airway? Is the patient breathing? Is there
excessive bleeding? (ABC's)
If you know CPR, and the patient needs it, administer it
immediately. If there is excessive bleeding anywhere, apply
direct pressure to the wound with a dry, clean cloth.
If there is no immediate danger to the patient and he doesn't need
any management of the ABC's, do nothing. Keep
the patient as he is in the vehicle until fire units can get on the
scene. There may be cervical spine damage of which
you are unaware and movement by the patient could only make it
worse. Many times, people who have just been in a
car crash will want to jump out of the car and move about. Do your
best to keep them still.
The scene can be a combination of environmental hazards such as
downed electrical wires, unknown substance
leakage, gasoline spills, fire. If you are on the scene before law
enforcement officers or fire units, be aware of such dangers.
Often, spilled gasoline is present. Allow no smoking. Turn all
vehicle ignitions off.
If the car is on fire and firefighting personnel have not yet
arrived, decide if you can remove the passengers quickly
enough or whether you should fight the fire. If the passengers are
not trapped, move them first. If they cannot be
extricated quickly, deal with the fire. The main cause of most
vehicle fires after a crash is from a ruptured fuel tank
or fuel lines that have been ignited by internal or external
sources. The most common ignition point, however, is under
the hood, which usually does not present a serious hazard to
vehicle occupants unless combustion is enhanced by gasoline.
Most fires under the hood will not spread unless fueled by an external source.
Once emergency units do arrive, tell them what you know and then
move to a safe position away from the incident letting the firefighters,
police, and EMS personnel do their job.
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