Tag Archives: child safety

Holiday Toy Safety

The consumer advocacy group, USPIRG, has released its annual Trouble in Toyland report highlighting toys that raise concerns because of toxic substances, choking hazards, magnets or excessive noise. All of these toys were purchased from national retailers or online.  Make this holiday a safe and happy one!

warning toy hazard photo



One Text or Call Could Wreck It All

As part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and to help teens (and everyone) make safer driving decisions, I and other attorneys from MichieHamlett have been making safety presentations to schools in the area for the past several years.

Teens, who are inexperienced drivers and often passengers in cars being driven by other inexperienced drivers, are particularly at risk. Traffic crashes are now the leading cause of death for this age group. The vast majority of teen crashes are caused by some type of driver distractions. As a trial attorney with nearly 15 years of practice, I have personally seen many senseless traffic tragedies involving teens and how these tragedies devastate families and communities.  And, as you know, many adults are guilty of distracted driving, which further subjects our children, and us, to danger on the road.

Most people don’t know that distracted driving was the 2009 word of the year chosen by Webster’s Dictionary. Unfortunately, this is no passing fad. Distracted driving has become a trend with deadly, real consequences.

Why do so many people participate in this dangerous behavior? With more technology now than ever, driver distractions have risen to unprecedented levels. We live in a world where people expect instant, real-time information 24 hours a day and those desires don’t stop just because they get behind the wheel. Drivers simply do not realize – or choose to ignore – the danger they create when they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their focus off driving.

For those who think they can do two things at once, think about this: According to a study by Carnegie Mellon, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Can you really afford to lose that much brainpower? It is effectively equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving is an activity that requires your full attention and focus in order to keep yourself and others safe.

This is a national problem. No one is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. So please remember: One text or call could wreck it all.

Ten Tips on How to Stop Driving Distracted:

  • Turn off your phone when you get in your car.
  • When you’re in the car, put your phone where you can’t get to it, like the trunk or glove box.
  • Turn your phone notifications off. The less you hear your phone, the less tempted you’ll be to reach for it while you’re driving.
  • Designate a texter. Borrow the thumbs of a friend. Or lend yours to a friend. Passengers get the privilege of texting while in motion.
  • If you need to contact someone, pull over to a safe location and put your vehicle in park.
  • Change your voicemail greeting to indicate you are driving and will call back when safely parked.
  • If you are a passenger and the driver wants to use a cell phone, tell the driver you are uncomfortable with his or her cell phone use.
  • If you are talking to someone who is driving, ask the person to call you when he or she is parked in a safe location or tell the person you’ll call back later.
  • Concentrate on your driving and don’t use your drive time as your down time to catch up on other things.
  • Recognize activities that distract you and make an effort to eliminate them.

Guest Blogger – UVA’s Donna Broshek, Ph.D. on Concussions

As part of brain injury awareness month, we have been featuring a series of articles to educate readers about how to prevent and treat concussions in children.  We were also fortunate to have Donna Broshek, who is a neuropsychologist and the Associate Director of the UVA Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, film a public service announcement with us. You can see the PSA here.  Happily, Donna also agreed to write a blog post for us.  Please join me in thanking Donna for all of her help in educating us about this important topic, and keep reading for her post:

As Bryan noted in Kids and Concussions, Part 2, Virginia passed a state law that became effective in July 2011 that requires that public schools develop a protocol for identifying and managing sports concussions, as well as providing education to students and parents.  This legislation has been very important in increasing awareness of sports concussions and keeping kids safe.  The Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes incorporated key aspects of safe management:

1)      Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be removed from play and evaluated by a health care provider with experience in sports concussion.

2)      The student must obtain written medical clearance before being allowed to resume physical activity.

3)      Return to physical activity must occur in a gradual supervised manner – various levels of physical activity are introduced gradually while concussion symptoms are monitored.  If symptoms increase or return, the student-athlete returns to a lower level of activity until their symptoms get better.

An important issue for parents to know is that this law only applies to public schools.  Private schools are not covered, although many such schools do have good concussion policies.  Of particular importance is that private youth leagues, such as elite soccer organizations or lacrosse travel teams, are not required to have concussion policies since they are not covered by the state legislation.  It is even more important for parents to be able to recognize signs of concussion in their children and respond by seeking appropriate care when their children are not covered under the state law.

What parents can do:

1)      During the month of March, the Concussion Recognition and Response™ Coach and Parent Version phone app can be downloaded free of charge on iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and Android platforms.  The app was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and provides step by step guidance in identifying symptoms and seeking medical evaluation.   The app also has information on monitoring symptoms at home and suggestions for school.

2)      Parents can insist that coaches of independent sports leagues develop a concussion policy that mirrors the one established by the state for public schools.

3)      Parents can lobby their legislators to fix this loophole in the state law so that any private leagues using public sports fields are required to follow the same policies as public schools.

4)      It is better to err on the side of conservative concussion management in youths as the developing brain is more vulnerable to concussions and concussion symptoms last longer in kids and teens.  If in doubt, sit them out!

Donna K. Broshek, Ph.D.

Clinical Neuropsychologist

Kids and Concussions, Part 2

Recently Donna Broshek, Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, and I recorded a public service announcement about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children. During our shoot, I was able to talk with her about this important topic.  One of the things I took away from that conversation is the importance of our role as parents in educating ourselves and our children about concussions.

Four Ways To Help Keep Your Child Safe

Bruised egos, broken bones and concussions are the biggest risks children face in sports–at an age and almost any sport. As parents we can lessen our safety concerns by becoming informed, engaged and in communication with our children, the schools and their coaches.

1)  Educate yourself.  Learn what a concussion is, its symptoms and what you can do to help your child or teen reduce the chances of a traumatic brain injury. For valuable resources see my first article, What Parents Need to Know About Concussions, Part 1.

2) Ask questions. Is your school system in compliance with the 2011 Virginia Student Athlete Protection Act? This bill established the Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes, requiring specific protocols for sports, protective gear and training.  

Talk to the coach, school administration, league representative and anyone else who is involved in your child’s sports.  How knowledgeable are they about concussions? Ask to see a copy of the school or league’s training manual for coaches and parent volunteers.

b) Check to see that helmets and equipment are up to date, in good repair and certified, if applicable.

c) Are athletes given any materials on safety, sportsmanship and injury?  Are parents given materials   on concussions?

3)  Talk to your children.  Talk about peer pressure and well-meaning adults who say, “tough it out” after an injury.  Explain in age-appropriate language what a concussion is and the dangers from returning to play too quickly. Talk from a place of love and concern about why their physical health is more important than playing when injured. Talk about the long-term effects of concussions.

4)  Get involved. Your level of involvement may depend on your child’s age. High school football players aren’t as comfortable with mom around as they were when they were children.  There are ways to become a ‘team parent’–from volunteering with fundraisers and parents’ groups to sitting on advisory committees. Attend games and practices (for younger children), show your support for the team and get to know your child’s coaches.

Your involvement as the parent of a young athlete is vital–it shows you care about your child’s participation and safety. And, should an accident occur you’re right there and able to see what happened and to take an active role in your child’s recovery from a concussion.

In my next article we’ll talk about how to prepare your child to play team sports.


Parents’ vigilance can head off kids’ concussion risk (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/09/29/concussion-kids-cantu/1581173/)

The CDC Parent/ Athlete Concussion Information Sheet (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Parent_Athlete_Info_Sheet-a.pdf)

MomsTEAM.com (http://www.momsteam.com) – Helpful website for sports moms and dads.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month!

March is Brain injury awareness month and in recognition of this the Child Safety Blog is featuring a series of articles on concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children.  We also did a public service announcement with Donna Broshek, who is the Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute. You can see the PSA here.

Your role as a parent is to both protect and encourage your child in the world. It’s a tough balance–you want your child to play sports and other recreational activities and you want them to be safe. By learning about concussions, the symptoms and how to prevent concussions, parents can help keep their kids safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year over 207,000 children are treated in emergency departments for sports-related concussions and other TBIs. The highest occurrence is for youth between the ages of 5-18.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Excessive shaking can cause a concussion. Even a seemingly mild bump or blow to the head can be cause for concern and require medical attention.

A concussion may last for a short time or it can produce symptoms that last for days or weeks. While symptoms may appear mild, in some cases the injury can result in significant, lasting impairments.

While these should not be considered the absolute indicators of a concussion, they are signs that your child should seek medical attention:

  • Headache or neck pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in ears
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Temporary loss of consciousness or forgetting the incident

For more complete details on symptoms and what you should do, see this info sheet from The Mayo Clinic. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/concussion/DS00320/METHOD=print)

What To Do If You Think Your Child Has a Concussion

The first thing to do is call your child’s physician. He or she will give you advice on whether to seek immediate medical treatment or to wait and observe your child for a day or two. Some symptoms may not appear immediately so you need to pay careful attention for a number of days after the injury.

Take notes–it’s always helpful for doctors if you can provide a history of an accident. Was he hit in the head? Did she lose consciousness? For how long? Write down symptoms and any comments your child makes that may indicate signs of brain injury. For example, is your child confused about the day or time, or complaining of head pain or dizziness? The more information you can share with the doctor the better.

Try to keep your child calm during this initial period. Discourage too much physical movement and other strenuous or stressful events. Remember it’s always better to call the doctor if you’re concerned.

Some Statistics on Concussions

Children from birth to 9 years of age are most often injured during playground activities or while riding a bike.

  • The highest occurrences are in football and girl’s soccer.
  • Males represent 71.0% of all sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • Children aged 10-19 years account for 70.5% of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • For males aged 10-19 years, sports and recreation-related TBIs occurred most often while playing football or bicycling.
  • Females aged 10-19 years sustained sports and recreation-related TBIs most often while playing soccer or basketball or bicycling.


If your child falls off his bike, bumps her head or is injured in a soccer game, he or she could suffer a concussion. Concussions can be serious if left untreated. Seek medical attention and keep a close eye on your child for the next few days–the doctor will give you suggestions on what to look for and what to do in the following days and weeks.

It’s important that you share information about the injury with teachers and coaches, if your child is in athletics, and ask them to help you watch for any potential signs of brain trauma.

And, as Donna Broshek advises in our PSA – when in doubt, sit them out.

In our next article we’ll talk about what parents can do to help prevent concussions.

Helpful Resources for Parents:

Concussions- The Kids Health Blog (http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/concussion.html# )  – Easy to read article describing concussions and the symptoms.

Concussion and Mild TBI (http://www.cdc.gov/Concussion/) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a wealth of resources on concussions.

Moms Team-Concussion Signs and Symptoms  (http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-signs-and-symptoms-physical-cognitive-emotional-sleep-related) Online source for youth sports parents.

Teaching Older Kids to Use Kitchen Knives Safely

I love to cook with my kids.  I was in the kitchen with one of my older girls the other day, and she asked if she could cut an onion for a soup I was making. Her technique scared me a bit, and I realized I needed to teach her how to properly use a kitchen knife.  I used to work as a sous chef for a while after college.  How well I learned to cook is debatable, but I did become pretty proficient at using a knife.  Here are a few tips:

  • Use a good, sturdy cutting board.  Keep it from slipping by using a board with non-slip feet, or put a wet towel or non-slip mat underneath.
  • Never cut food that you’re holding in your hand – place it and cut it on the cutting board..
  • Keep knives sharp – dull knives are more likely to slip and accidentally cause an injury
  • Secure the food with your opposite hand, and tuck your fingers to form a “claw” – your fingers should be straight up and down and can be used to guide the knife.  Here’s a picture of the technique.
  • Use a cutting board with plenty of space, and try to keep the tip of the knife in contact with the board as you chop.
  • Keep knives away from the edge of a counter top, and if a knife falls DO NOT try to catch it.
  • A good tool for kids to use at first is a double handled half moon knife (Mezzaluna).  This can only be used for chopping, but its design keeps stray fingers out of the way of the blade.
  • Always have adult supervision until you’re completely comfortable that a child can use a knife safely.

Here’s a good video that does a good job showing these techniques.  Stay safe and have fun cooking with your kids.

Gun Safety and Kids

Since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Ct, there’s been a lot of debate about whether the country needs stricter gun control measures. Many people understandably have strongly held beliefs on this subject, but there’s one aspect to this issue that we should all agree on – unsupervised children cannot be allowed to have access to guns.  The statistics regarding kids and firearm deaths are staggering, but I’m not here to take a side in the gun control/gun rights battle – I just want to keep them out of the hands of unsupervised kids.

There is lots of web content on the internet about gun safety when it comes to children, and a great, comprehensive document I’ve found is by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.  It’s entitled simply Gun Safety, and, if you have kids or if you own guns, I highly recommend that you read it.

A few of its initial recommendations:

  • Unload and lock up guns
  • Lock and store ammunition separately
  • Hide keys where kids can’t find them
  • Gun safe’s are best, but gun locks/trigger locks can also be effective when used correctly.

These suggestions are pretty self evident, but the article also contains helpful suggestions for how to  teach children the difference between reality and fantasy play, and also separate tips for parents who own guns and parents who don’t. In my next posts, we’ll talk further about those topics.

Child Safety Tips for 2013

The old year is gone but not forgotten. Many poignant news stories remind us how important child safety is and how we are challenged as parents and caregivers to protect children at home, in school and at play. Our greatest wish is for everyone to have a healthy, happy, safe New Year 2013. Here are a few child safety reminders to help make your home safer:

1) Stay focused on your child. If your young child is at home, keep a close watch. Be on the same floor or in the same room if possible. Don’t spend so much time connected to your devices that you forget your kids are there with you and need your attention, supervision and care.

2) Child proof your home. If you have young ones crawling, climbing and seeking to stand, put things they should not have high up (or lock them away). Cover the electrical sockets and lock the bathroom cabinets. Tablecloths with hot dishes can be pulled. TVs should be attached to the wall–not resting on a cabinet, as kids can pull them over when climbing.

3) Don’t leave dangerous items that might look like edibles about. Children love to put things in their mouths. Carefully put away button or other small batteries, pills, beads, buttons, magnets, and sharps such as scissors, pins or sewing needles, and craft accessories (glitter, glue, glue sticks, glue guns) etc., after use.

4) Make sure to stow away household chemicals and cleaners after use– especially ammonia, chlorinated cleansers, toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, and drain cleaners which can cause chemical burns, eye and respiratory irritations and worse. They need to be on a shelf high up in a lockable cabinet–where even the most curious climbers cannot get to them.

5) To minimize more than one household hazard, dispose of trash regularly. Take old newspapers, magazines and other periodicals to the local recycling area or dump. Dispose of any chemically soaked cleaning rags that can spontaneously combust.

6) Dress young children warmly for outdoor winter play, layering their clothing–but making sure clothing as well as shoes and boots, are not so tight that they cut off the circulation. Kids need to be warm and able to breathe well. Bring them in doors for a juice or snack break when you feel they’ve been out long enough.

7) Pay attention to your children’s exposure to the sun. Playing out of doors is wonderful, but make sure their tender skin is not exposed to too much sun which may cause them skin problems in the future. Keep fresh sun block on hand for those noses, cheeks, ears, arms and hands–even in the winter.

What do you know about bed rails?

Last week the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted 4-0 to adopt new safety standards for portable bed rails to keep children five years and under from falling or rolling out of bed. Typically, portable bed rails are used on the sides of an adult bed to prevent a child (or an elderly or infirm person) from rolling out of bed.

Because there were problems related to portable bed rails, including consumer assembly and installation difficulties that resulted in child deaths, the CPSC and ASTM, a standards development organization, formulated new mandatory safety requirements, which incorporate ASTM’s bed rail standard F2085-12.

According to the CPSC announcement, the new mandatory federal standards, in accordance with Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, require that:

  • “Portable bed rails must not create a dangerous gap with the mattress into which a child can fall;
  • They must be tested to make sure the bed rail hardware is permanently attached, and that the components cannot be assembled in an unsafe manner;
  • Bed rails must have improved warnings on labels and instructions;
  • Installation components, such as anchor or straps, must be permanently attached to the bed rail, and must have a warning label on them; and
  • Bed rails must not have hazardous sharp edges, points or small parts.”

In addition, parents and caregivers are urged to note that portable bed rails should never be used with children younger than two years old. Portable bed rails are specifically intended for use with children ages 2 to 5 years old who can get out of an adult bed without help. Parents should also note that gaps in and around bed rails have previously entrapped young children and killed infants–so bed rails should always be used with caution.


This new standard will go into effect six months following its publication in the Federal Register.

Britax Recalling Chaperone Infant and Child Restraint Systems Due to Defect!

by Marianne Frederick

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced over the weekend that Britax, the manufacturer of children’s car seats, strollers and child and infant restraint systems, will recall approximately 14,220 Chaperone infant and child restraint systems.

The Chaperone Infant and Child Restraint Systems manufactured from September 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011 are being recalled because the harness adjuster can detach from the seat. In the event of a crash, the defective harness adjuster could cause serious or fatal injury to a child or infant as the child would not be properly restrained.

According to the NHTSA, the car restraint systems affected by this recall display the model numbers: E9L692J (black/silver), E9L692K (red), E9L692L (“cowmooflage”) and E9L692M (green). The manufacture date and model number are also shown on a label on the car seat.

The company, Britax, will notify owners of the restraint systems and provide free repair kits which owners can install. The recall and mailing of repair kits are expected to begin on or about February 6, 2012. Until February 6, any car seats from which the harness adjuster has become detached will be replaced by Britax. Consumers can locate the harness adjuster at the base of the car seat. Consumers may contact Britax by calling

1-888-427-4829 or visiting the company’s website at http://www.britaxusa.com.

For more information on this particular recall, consumers also may want to contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236. (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or visithttp://www.safercar.gov. When discussing this particular recall with the NHTSA, consumers will want to reference campaign number 12C001000.