Preventing Accidents

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety, says William Shakespeare in Henry IV.

To parents with young children, the Safety City Society is that beautiful flower which teaches our children about safety from age 3 to grade 6. This is wonderful because what happens to our children in the first 6 years of their lives largely determines how well they are able to learn in school, how they can cope as adults, and often, how healthy they will be as adults.

Last week, the Safety City Society of Medicine Hat had their annual general meeting. Here is what I learnt.

In Alberta, average life expectancy is 81 years for women and 76 years for men. According to Alberta Health and Wellness, we can make it to this age if we don’t smoke and are able to avoid injury.

How can we do this? First, let us see what is killing Albertans. The top 5 causes of death are: heart disease, cancer, lung diseases, stroke and injuries. The first 4 causes are directly or indirectly related to smoking. The 5th cause is due to falls, motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, suicide, work place and farm injuries. And injuries kill 4 people daily. Just like losing a family of 4 everyday! This has not changed in the last 5 years.

Why injuries are hurting us? Thirty six percent of fatalities are related to drinking and driving. Four out of 5 collisions occur in cities. Rural Alberta sees 72 percent of fatal collisions. Afternoon rush hour accounts for 30 percent of all collisions. Friday sees the most collisions and Sunday has the most fatalities. So, where and when can we take our family out?

Should we blame the government? No. It is us…. the drivers!

Drinking and driving takes its own toll. Driver errors account for 89 percent of collisions. And we make the same mistakes over and over again: following too closely, running off the road (rural areas), turning left across the oncoming traffic, running red light, and changing lanes without shoulder check.

We know seat belt save lives and reduce the injury rate. But recent study, released by the RCMP shows only 60 per cent of rural drivers in the Palliser health district use seat belts and that only 57 per cent of rural passengers buckle up. We are the third worst ranking health district of the 17 surveyed. That is not good!

But the impressive work is done by the people at the Safety City with the help of dedicated workers and donors. They teach our children about helmet awareness, seatbelt safety, train safety, winter safety, traffic safety, bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, bus safety, Halloween safety, home safety, and organize car seat clinics. All this on a shoestring budget!

The Board Chair, Dorothy Patry says: At Safety City we envision that very soon this community, will no longer accept “accidents” as inevitable, instead many “predictable and preventable” injuries will be significantly reduced.

This can only be done if we learn to be patient and careful at home, at work and on the roads. Let us slow down and enjoy the drive!

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