Keeping Children Safe as Spring Arrives in Maryland
After being cooped up inside over a rough Maryland winter, you can expect that children are itching to get outside to enjoy warmer weather and longer days of spring. There is always a transitional period when the seasons change, so you may have already done some of the prep work by packing away mittens and scarves and replacing them with rain gear and lighter clothing. However, parents should keep another issue in mind as the temperatures rise — the potential for unintentional injuries to children also increases as they spend more time outdoors.
As a parent, you play a key role in teaching proper safety tips throughout the year. Spring offers another opportunity to remind children of the dangers around them, as well as to instill new lessons appropriate for their ages and the season.
Statistics on Accidental Injuries to Children
Statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that around 12,000 individuals aged 0-19 years old are killed and another 9.2 million are treated in hospital emergency rooms because of accidents every year.
Parents should especially note that:
- Falls are the number one reason for injuries to children up to age 15.
- Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of fatalities for individuals 0 to 19 years old. Traffic collisions are also behind the highest injury rates for children aged 15 to 19.
- Boys are more likely to be involved in fatal or injury-causing accidents, at a rate almost double girls in all age groups.
- The primary cause of accidental death to children under a year is suffocation, which is responsible for two-thirds of all fatalities. In this same age group, falls were responsible for half of all nonfatal injuries.
- Drowning is the number one cause of death for children aged 1 to 4.
Tips for Keeping Children Safe This Spring
Though you may think that certain tips are just common sense, you can see from the above statistics that children may need frequent reminders. With spring on the way, here are some topics to discuss and safety recommendations to stress for kids of all ages.
Safety in the Car
Accidents can happen in any season, but traffic tends to get heavier in the warmer months. The days are longer, so there are more people enjoying the weather, outdoor activities, and spring sports. With the trees in bloom and things coming to life, drivers may also get distracted. There is also more rainfall in Maryland this time of year, leading to slippery roads. Make sure children are secured, either in an appropriate car seat or seat belt, and position younger ones in the backseat.
Protecting Child Pedestrians and Bicycle Riders
Spring inspires alternative forms of transportation – either for fun or getting around town. When children are on foot or bicycle, remind them:
- Always wear a helmet while riding;
- Look both ways for cars – OR, for small children, do not cross a street without an adult;
- Never disobey “Don’t Walk” signs;
- Avoid riding with passengers on a bike meant for solo use; and,
- Always wear proper shoes and snugly fitting clothing.
With falls ranking at the top of all injuries to children, your job as a parent should be protection based upon age.
- Toddlers are top heavy, new to walking, and inquisitive. Monitor them closely at parks and outdoor spaces.
- School age children are more independent, but they are also able to understand and follow rules. Explain safety risks involved with their favorite activities and establish boundaries to limit the risk of injuries.
- Teens have the basics down, but do not always make wise safety decisions. Teach them how risk-taking comes with consequences.
Safety Around Pools and Water
It may be late spring before you hit the pool, but the time is right to talk to your kids about water safety. Remind them to walk, not run, around slippery surfaces and never swim without proper supervision. Depending on age and swimming ability, you might consider a life jacket at the beach and lakes; a PFD is required for children when riding in boats. Plus, it is wise to invest in swimming lessons to ensure children are confident in their abilities.
Liability for Child Injuries in Maryland
Accidents happen for a reason, and the causes typically center on careless acts or omissions by a third party. In the practice of law, the legal theory of liability is termed negligence. To recover for your losses after a child is injured, you must prove that the accident occurred because someone breached the legal duty to exercise reasonable care. Some examples of negligent conduct include:
- Drivers speeding, running red lights, or failing to yield;
- Business and property owners not making repairs to dangerous conditions on the premises; and,
- Operators of pools and waterparks who fail to place signage, install fencing, or hire lifeguards.
You should note that Maryland’s contributory negligence rule does apply in cases involving child’s injuries. It could operate to bar compensation if your child was partly to blame, though age and maturity are important factors. Courts have found that a child under five years old is not capable of contributory negligence, but older children are held to a higher standard.