Planning a day out for your family? At Stapp Law, LLC, we want everyone to be safe when exploring Williamsport, Lycoming County, or anywhere else in Pennsylvania. That’s why we’ve compiled our top 10 safety tips for your next family outing.
1. Make Sure Children Are Restrained by Seat Belts or Appropriate Car Seats
There is no disputing the impact that seat belts have on vehicle safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%.” And when used appropriately, car seats reduce the risk of child injury by as much as 82%. For children between the ages of 4 and 8, booster seats reduce injury risk by at least 45%.
You and your family should always be properly restrained when traveling by motor vehicle. If you’re unsure what car seat or booster seat your child should be riding in, consult with their pediatrician.
Your child’s car seat is only safe when used and installed correctly. You can have a professional inspect your car seat by making an appointment at one of three locations with the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Pediatric Injury Prevention Program. Certain Pennsylvania State Police locations also perform child safety seat inspections by appointment or on specific days of the month.
2. Create an Emergency Kit for Your Vehicle
If you’re traveling by car, you should have an emergency kit stored somewhere in the vehicle. Items to keep in your emergency kit include:
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire, car jack, and tire iron
- First aid kit
- Nonperishable food
- Extra phone chargers
An emergency vehicle kit should contain enough supplies for the number of people traveling. If you’re driving during the winter or during periods of cool or cold temperatures, include mylar blankets and easy sources of heat, such as instant heat packs.
3. Perform Car Maintenance
There’s no faster way to ruin a fun family outing than to deal with a broken down car on the side of the road. Regular maintenance will keep your car running smoothly and safely.
As a vehicle owner, we recommend that you regularly perform the following vehicle maintenance:
- Oil change – Every 7,500 to 10,000 miles
- Air filter change – Every 12,000 to 15,000 miles
- Check tire pressure – Once a month
- Replace tires – Every 36,000 to 75,000 miles (or when tread depth is less than 2/32 of an inch)
- Check coolant levels – Twice a year (especially before summer)
This is an incomplete list of necessary vehicle maintenance. The good news is that you don’t have to handle all of this by yourself. If you’re uncomfortable performing maintenance on your vehicle, we strongly recommend forming a strong relationship with a local auto mechanic or auto shop. Take your vehicle there for regular maintenance at least once a year, or before you set off on a road trip.
4. Wear Sunscreen, Drink Plenty of Water, and Be Mindful of the Weather
During any family outing, be mindful of the temperature and weather conditions. Check the weather forecast and keep changing temperatures in mind, especially between noon and 3 p.m.—the hottest part of the day. If the temperature is expected to vary drastically, dress yourself and your children in layers that can easily be removed.
If you’re going to be spending time outside, wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or more and reapply every two hours.
Bring plenty of water and make sure that everyone in your family is drinking enough. Dehydration and insufficient water intake are primary driving factors in heat exhaustion. Be on the lookout for signs of:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat or breathing
- Stomach, arm, or leg cramps
- Clammy skin
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your children or anyone else in your family, immediately move them to the shade or a cool indoor area. Have them drink water and monitor them closely. If they don’t appear to be getting better, call 911 or go directly to the emergency room.
5. Help Your Kids Memorize Your Phone Number
Even if your child is too young to have a phone of their own, they should still know how to get in contact with you, their other parent, any stepparents, or any parental figures in their life. If you’re planning a family outing, set aside time to practice reciting these phone numbers with your child. Setting the phone number to a song or rhythm can make it easier to remember.
Make a game out of it and use small rewards to encourage them, like stickers or pieces of candy. Review the number again as you’re on the way to your destination.
6. Have a Safety Plan if You Get Lost or Separated
There are few things more terrifying than realizing that you and your child have been separated in a public place. The most important thing to do in this situation is to remain calm and follow your family’s safety plan.
If your child is old enough, choose a highly visible or easy-to-find location as your meeting place when you arrive at your destination. If you get separated, agree to meet back up at this location. Do not choose the entrance or parking lot as your meeting place. Try to choose a location like a ticket booth or lifeguard tower where you can expect employees to be.
If your child is younger, instruct them to stay put if you become separated. Tell your child to ask either an employee or a parent with a child for help. Make sure they know what shirt, uniform, or name tags employees wear.
7. Practice Water Safety
A family outing to the pool, lake, or beach can be a great way to spend the day. However, water is one of the greatest dangers for families with young children. The CDC reports that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 1 and 4, and the second leading cause of unintentional death for kids aged 5 to 14.
Protect your family from drowning by:
- Enrolling your kids in swimming lessons
- Using United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jackets or flotation devices
- Abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and other mind-altering substances
- Dressing children in bright swimsuits
- Having at least one adult watching small children at all times
Take breaks while swimming and keep a close eye on children. If someone appears to be tired or struggling, have them move to the shallow end or get out of the pool to rest.
8. Be Safe in the Dark
Planning on taking your family out during the nighttime? Nighttime safety is different than daytime safety. Instead of worrying about sun exposure and making sure everyone is covered in sunscreen, you’ll need to shift your focus to visibility.
Dress yourself and your family in bright or light colors, avoiding clothing that is all black or that blends into the nighttime. You can increase your child’s visibility by bringing along glowstick jewelry, like bracelets and necklaces.
Stay away from roads and bodies of water, as these can pose an even greater risk of danger and injury to small children during nighttime hours when they are less visible.
9. Know How To Look for a Lost Child
Staying calm when a child is missing is not easy. However, if your child is no longer by your side, we encourage you to take a calming breath and then begin looking for them with strategic intent.
Don’t run around the area calling their name. Instead, in a loud clear voice announce that your child is missing, and then provide a description. For example, say something like, “I’m looking for a 3-year-old girl with brown hair. She’s wearing jean shorts and a green shirt,” or “My 5-year-old son is missing. He has short hair and is wearing a shirt with Spider-Man on it.”
Simply calling your child’s name does not convey the severity of the situation. Be descriptive and make sure that other people are also looking for your child.
10. Choose Appropriate Shoes
A pair of strappy sandals might look cute, but they won’t provide the needed support for a day of walking around. Whether you’re visiting a theme park, touring a new city, or spending the afternoon at the park, the right footwear will help you feel better and can even help prevent injury by providing stability and cushioning.
How To Handle an Injury During Your Family Outing
It’s important to remember that even if you follow every safety tip out there, another person’s negligent or reckless actions can still cause harm to you or your family. If anyone in your family is injured in a car accident, on another person’s property, or in any way while out for the day, your first step should always be to get them appropriate medical care.
After that, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer in Williamsport. At Stapp Law, LLC, we provide completely free case evaluations to injury victims and their families, so get in touch with our office by phone or online.