Help youth avoid risky behaviorsSchool will be out soon, and summer fun is on the horizon. As youth gear up for an active summer, peer pressure and the excitement of risk-taking may overshadow their concerns for safety.
By: By Amy Reineke, Public Health educator, Alexandria Echo Press
School will be out soon, and summer fun is on the horizon. As youth gear up for an active summer, peer pressure and the excitement of risk-taking may overshadow their concerns for safety.
Risky behavior and driving
According to Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts, 2007 motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people; the primary cause for collisions is driver inattention.
In Minnesota, only 16 percent of licensed drivers are ages 15 to 24, but they account for 27 percent of all drivers involved in crashes.
When teens obtain their own set of car keys, parents often worry that they’ve said goodbye to all control. Parents can help by drawing up a driving contract before turning over the keys, that clearly states family rules and the consequences for breaking them.
A contract should address safety, good driving skills and particular situations in the following areas:
• Which car(s) the teen is allowed to drive .
• Responsibility for taking care of the car – putting gas in, oil changes, tire pressure and regular maintenance requirements.
• Keeping the car clean inside and out and free of trash.
• Paying for insurance.
• Always obeying speed limits and traffic laws.
• Always wearing seat belts and making sure all passengers are buckled up before driving.
• No drinking/drug use.
• Not driving with distractions – using a cell phone, texting and having too many people in the car.
Other risky behavior
Other summer-related activities that pose a risk to youth include:
• Swimming. Swim only in designated areas and never swim alone. If you are not a good swimmer, stay near the shore. Don’t swim if you’re too tired, too cold, have had too much sun, or you’re too far from safety.
• Sun safety. Remember to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun. Re-apply every hour and after swimming. Use SPF 15 or higher.
• Boating. Make sure you have youth in coast guard approved life jackets and there are enough for everyone in the boat.
• Biking and skateboarding. Wear a helmet when riding bicycles, dirt bikes, inline skates and skateboards to prevent head injuries.
• Riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Adolescents who are not licensed to drive a car should not be allowed to operate off-road vehicles. Those who operate an ATV should wear a helmet.
• Lawn mowing. Teens younger than 16 should not operate a riding mower, and those younger than 12 should not use a walk-behind mower. When on a riding mower, never have a child or pet on your lap. Wear sturdy shoes (not sandals).
• Using fireworks. When lighting fireworks, keep flames and fireworks away from you. Sparklers can cause serious third-degree burns. The safest thing is to not use fireworks at all, and go to a professional fireworks display.