Tag Archives: National Safety Council

We Can’t Drive 55

June 8, 2017 by

I have a little pinback button with a red flag emblazoned with the words “Safety First.” It was produced in 1915 by the Nebraska Safety League, which seems to have been one of a number of grassroots efforts to improve public safety.

This was in response to the nationwide development of a group called the National Council for Industrial Safety, which initially focused on workplace safety, but expanded its scope in the next few years to include traffic and home concerns (changing its name to the National Safety Council).

About that time, Omaha’s city commissioner, John J. Ryder, visited New York and discovered something called the “American Museum of Safety,” which functioned, in part, to instruct school children about street safety. He was enamored with this idea and advocated for a local version.

Both recommendations came at the end of an era of almost unbridled carnage in the streets. To read the newspapers of the era, crossing the street sometimes sounded like a game of Frogger, with pedestrians dodging carriages, streetcars, automobiles, and runaway horses. Auto fatalities had skyrocketed—a total of 54 people had died in crashes in 1900, but by 1915 nearly 7,000 Americans had been killed on the roads.

The first talk of speed limits in Omaha seems to have occurred as far back as 1903, when an automobile ordinance was proposed. There weren’t many car owners in town, and they tended to be wealthy, and tended to get their way as a result. When the ordinance suggested a low speed limit of six-to-eight miles per hour, the car owners rebelled. Included among them was Gurdon Wattles, who made his fortune in transportation. He complained that cars only went two speeds, slow and fast, and slow was too slow to be much good, and fast was too fast for the speed limit. He suggested 12 miles per hour would be satisfactory.

They got their way, but almost immediately advances in auto technology rendered this limit moot. By 1905, cars were speeding around Omaha at 40 miles per hour, and police were complaining it was nearly impossible to enforce the limit—to tell a car’s speed, police had to watch a car travel from one area to the next and count seconds, and then do some quick math. In 1909, there was even a proposal to reduce the speed limit again, back down to six miles per hour, to discourage cars driving at dangerous speeds.

Instead, the speed limit crept upward. By 1911, it was 15 miles per hour. By the 1920s, with the advent of highways built specifically for automobiles, the maximum speed jumped to 25 miles per hour. By 1935, it was 35. And in 1969, speeds on the highways leapt to 60 miles per hour.

So it has been ever since, but for a brief period in the 1970s when, in response to spiking oil prices, there was a national maximum speed limit off 55 miles per hour, which proved unpopular enough for Sammy Hagar to enjoy chart success with a song titled “I Can’t Drive 55.”

The federal limits were repealed in 1995. Currently, the maximum speed limit in Nebraska is 75 miles per hour, a speed that Gurdon Wattles probably would have enjoyed.

This article was printed in the May/June edition of 60 Plus.

Driver’s Ed—For Both of Us

January 14, 2014 by

My life as a mother is entering a whole new level of scary.

I’ve dealt with the baby turning blue, the disappearing toddler, and the fear of football injuries. But now, I’m getting ready to deal with the really frightening part of being a parent.

My oldest is getting his driver’s license in January.

It’s not that he won’t be a good driver. I truly believe he will be very focused and conscientious behind the wheel. I have to believe that. His father and I have invested in the teen driver training offered through the National Safety Council, so I know he’s getting the very best training possible.

He’ll be in class for twenty hours and behind the wheel with a certified instructor for another five. I take comfort in believing in this highly regarded program. I believe its coaches will remember all of the important things that I might forget to teach about the rules of the road. I mean, I’ve been driving for decades, and sure, I could show him how to operate a vehicle. But I don’t remember all those rules that I could once recite verbatim. So, I trust the experts on this one.

They tell me that teens who take driver’s education are less likely to be involved in an accident or get a ticket. So, the mom in me hangs on to that too. Because unlike the courage that it took for me to drop him off at daycare the first time, or to let him ride his bike alone, or later—to allow him to walk to the mall with friends—this is different. This is life or death stuff.

While I have confidence that he will learn how to be a good driver, I’m more concerned about him being a good defensive driver. I want him to know he really needs to watch out for the other guy. Because it could be the other guy that’s the real danger.

There will be other people out there driving who maybe aren’t as focused and conscientious as I hope he will be. They might be daydreaming. Or on the phone fighting with their girlfriend. Or, Lord help me, texting. And all it takes is one fraction of a second for a mistake to take away someone who means more to me than life itself.

The National Safety Council says that in 2012, teenage drivers accounted for almost one out of every four crashes in the state—and over 10 percent of all traffic deaths. Ten percent! And only six percent of Nebraska’s drivers are teens. That’s a lot of moms, dads, and family members with devastated, broken hearts. Every time I hear of another teen killed or hurt, it breaks my heart too. I just can’t grasp the pain that family is experiencing.

But now, it’s my turn to hand over the keys to my child. He’s excited about new freedoms he sees coming his way. And his pattern of being responsible and making good choices makes me feel encouraged about the kind of driver he will become. But still, there’s that nagging concern about statistical odds and life-changing moments. I guess that’s just the next step of parenting worry.

So let’s all be careful out there. I’ll keep an eye out for your kids, if you’ll keep an eye out for mine. Thanks.

Swimming Safety

June 20, 2013 by

Always swim with a buddy. Don’t run around the pool. Only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Never leave a child alone near water. Don’t dive into water that’s not at least eight feet deep.

You’ve heard these rules before, but they are never more important than when supervising children around water.

According to the National Safety Council, Nebraska Chapter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated an annual average of 5,200 pool- or spa-related submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011, with 66 percent of those injuries being represented by children between ages 1-3. Even more frightening is that most drowning and near-drowning incidents occur when children are left alone in the water or fall into the water without knowing how to swim.

Parents should always be cautious and constantly watching children around water, but there’s another way to prevent water-related injuries—swimming lessons.

There are plenty of places around Omaha where you can sign your family up for swimming lessons—including Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, Swimtastic Swim School, DiVentures, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Little Waves Family Swimming School, and more.

When is the best time to get children into swimming lessons? “I believe the earlier, the better,” says Mike McKamy, owner and manager of Little Waves Family Swim School in West Omaha. “We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water. We see a lot of 3- and 4-year-olds starting, too.”

“We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water.” – Mike McKamy, owner of Little Waves Family Swim School

Little Waves strives to provide a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for families to learn swimming techniques. Lessons are available for all ages—babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and adults. There are even pre-competitive classes and triathlon stroke clinics for more advanced swimmers.

When it comes to swimming, McKamy agrees that children should never swim without supervision; however, he does think that the supervision can be less hands-on as children’s swimming skills improve.

“They can get in the pool by themselves when they are able to float on their back and swim comfortably across the pool and back, [and] they should be able to breathe without effort when swimming over and back. But I always tell children they should never get in the water unless an adult is watching them.”

As for lifejackets and flotation devices, McKamy believes they’re necessary for non-swimmers to be safe around pools or lakes, but they’re not helpful to a child learning how to swim.

“A child who learns to swim with a flotation device can become very comfortable in the water with one. But when they become too comfortable with one and forget they don’t have it on, they [might] jump in without knowing how to swim. It’s best for children to learn how to float and swim without one so, if they fall in, they know exactly what to do.”

McKamy also thinks it’s a good idea for parents to receive CPR training. “Hopefully, you’ll never use it, but a 4- to 8-hour class may help you save the life of your own child or some other child or adult.”

For more information about Little Waves Family Swim School, visit littlewavesfamilyswimschool.com or call 402-932-2030.

There’s No Place Like Home

April 25, 2013 by

If you’ve spent time in the Midwest, you are no stranger to tornados. Many of us could share a story of “the Big One” or a storm we’ll never forget. Hopefully, with stories come memories of survival and preparedness. The following tips can help you prepare for when the next tornado strikes.

Who’s at Risk?

Tornadoes strike most often between March and June in the central U.S., but they’ve been reported in all 48 continental states, at all times of the year. Older adults need to take additional actions, like having their medications accessible and giving themselves plenty of time to get to shelter.

What to Do if a Tornado is Coming

Seek shelter immediately! If you’re away from home, your best bets are basements or interior corridors of office buildings, tunnels, or underground parking lots. Avoid auditoriums, upper stories of office buildings, trailers, and parked vehicles. And stay away from windows. If you’re out in the open, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area and protect your head. Stay away from poles and overhead lines.

If you’re driving, drive at right angles to the tornado’s path. If you can’t escape the path of the tornado, get out of the vehicle to avoid being overturned and crushed. If you’re at home, head for the basement and take cover under a heavy table or workbench. If you don’t have a basement, go into a windowless room in the center of the house. If that’s not possible, stay away from windows and cover yourself with a rug for protection against flying glass and debris.

Know the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning

A tornado watch means conditions are right for the formation of a tornado. Stay alert, and be prepared to take shelter. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area. Take shelter immediately!

What to Prepare

Here are suggested items for your emergency kit: One gallon water per person per day for at least three days; a three-day supply of non-perishable food; battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert, and extra batteries; flashlight and extra batteries; first aid kit including a whistle to signal help; prescription medications and glasses, including medical equipment like test strips or syringes, if needed; pet food and extra water for your pet; a sleeping bag or warm blanket; change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes; fire extinguisher; matches in a waterproof container; personal hygiene items; moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation; disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer; and paper cups and plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, and a can opener.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends preparing a survival kit of basic needs (food, water, etc.) for 72 hours for the home and car. Visit ready.gov for a complete list of emergency preparedness items. When a tornado strikes, there is often little time to gather items or get to a store. Make your own kit and store in a plastic tote, or purchase a kit from National Safety Council, Nebraska for $45 or $69 at safenebraska.org or call 402-896-0454.

Adapted from National Safety Council. NSC makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances. For more information, visit safenebraska.org.

Avoiding Falls

February 25, 2013 by

Did you know falls are by far the leading unintentional injury, accounting for more than 8.7 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. One in every three adults age 65 and older falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most falls are preventable. Many people attribute falls to being clumsy or not paying attention, but many risk factors exist. Physical hazards in the environment, vision, health conditions, and lack of exercise all increase the risk of a fall. Winter weather introduces an additional risk when ice and snow are on the ground. Reduce your risk and find fall hazards in your workplace and home to prevent injuries to yourself and others.

Tips for a fall-free year:

  • Maintain good lighting on outdoor walkways.
  • Wear sensible footwear. Consider changing from dress shoes to boots when walking outside.
  • Check the condition of outdoor handrails, walkways, and steps and repair as necessary.
  • Remove fallen leaves or snow from outdoor walkways as soon as possible to keep ice from forming.
  • Keep your shovel and de-icing products in the garage or inside the house so you won’t have to walk on a slippery surface to get your supplies.
  • Be aware that alcohol or other drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, can affect your balance and increase risk of falling.

Older Adult Falls. Older adults are more prone to become the victim of falls and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following tips can greatly help older adults prevent falls, but are beneficial to those of all ages:

  • Stay active. Chances of falling can be reduced by improving strength and balance. Examples of activities include brisk walking, tai chi and yoga.
  • Fall-proof your home—inside and out. This includes taking advantage of the tips above and removing indoor tripping hazards like rugs and clutter.
  • Review your medications. Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some medications or combination of medicines can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can potentially lead to a fall.
  • Check your vision. It’s best to have your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you have the best prescription for your glasses. Poor vision greatly increases your risk of falling.

Tips adapted from the National Safety Council website. For more information, including local fall prevention resources, visit safenebraska.org.