Did you know that kids are more likely to die or be critically injured between now and Labor Day? I realize just how terrifying that sounds, but it’s absolutely true.
I can tell you from my years of experience as a surgeon at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, that we always see a spike in injuries at our Emergency Department — injuries that require major surgery or critical care — between Memorial and Labor Day. Why? Because kids are out of school and exploring and sometimes that leads to situations that aren’t safe.
At ACH we place a true emphasis on spreading the word about injury prevention. We would love for there to be a day when our jobs are no longer necessary because children aren’t getting hurt. We know we’re a long way from that point, though.
This summer, our Injury Prevention Center is working hard to make sure that parents know the risks their children face during this season. They are promoting the hashtag #100deadliestdays on Twitter, with a tip every day to help families avoid some of the top circumstances that lead to kids’ deaths this time of year.
Among those risks is teen driving. Last year, nearly 1,000 people died in crashes that involved teen drivers between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Of those killed, more than half were teens.
Once school lets out, teens are more likely to drive for fun, rather than for a purpose like going to class or taking a sibling to practice. This leads to dangerous situations like too many distractions and passengers. Teens with more than two teen passengers increase their risk of a fatal crash by more than five times, according to the ACH Injury Prevention Center. In addition, more drivers overall are on the road during vacation season, which further increases the hazards.
Be sure to have an open discussion with your teen drivers about the need to put their cell phones away, limit their passengers to only one unrelated person under 18 and abide by their curfew as set by the state’s graduated driver license law.
Families can bring even more to the discussion by asking their young drivers to join them in signing a parent-teen agreement that establishes guidelines and expectations, as well as consequences. For more info and ideas on how to put together a parent-teen driving agreement, check out driveithome.org and check under the yellow tab marked “What You Can Do.”
While teen driving is one of the easiest areas to pinpoint for increased perils during the summer, younger children face dangers too. They are more likely to be involved in car crashes, which underscores the importance of properly installed car seats.
You can learn more about having your child’s passenger safety seat checked by calling the ACH Injury Prevention Center at (501) 364-3400. The center’s web page has a wealth of information for parents on several of the dangers kids face between Memorial and Labor Day. Just visit archildrens.org and type “Injury Prevention Center” in the search box at the top right to access those resources.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve already used this space to offer tips on recreational water safety and avoiding leaving a child in a hot car. You can expect to see me cover even more topics soon that will help you and your family avoid the risks children face during the 100 deadliest days of summer.
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Dr. Sam Smith is surgeon in chief at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He writes a column each week covering a variety of kids’ medical concerns. If you have a topic you’d like him to consider addressing, email email@example.com.