By: Natasha Archary
Every December thousands of families embark on a traditional quest…the great South African Summer vacation, an anticipated and well-deserved salvation of energy reserves and fun.
Every December thousands of families lose loved ones on the roads, in drowning incidents and freak accidents that could have been avoided.
For parents, safety is a high priority and rightfully so, you want to ensure your families’ safety at all times. Of course, there are things we can’t control, try as we may, and accidents are bound to happen. With everyone in holiday-mode, it means that alcohol consumption is higher and people generally loosen up and let their hair down a little more freely. We do all need to live a little but it’s also a really good time to feel unsafe.
As majority of the country flock to our beautiful, sunny shores, hundreds of children go missing in the crowds. Child abductions soar and the carnage on our roads reach record highs because safety is often not considered. Whilst we don’t control the actions of others there are safety measures one can take to ensure that safety is at the top of the list this holiday period.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
The festive period is one of the highest for missing children in the country. In South Africa a child goes missing every five hours, that’s on an average day. It is important to consider going out in groups during the festive period. Ensure that the adults accompanying you are trustworthy and where possible ensure that members of your family are included in the groups to watch over children. The addage, “never trust anyone with your child” comes to mind. But it is the holidays and some parents are working throughout this period so it does not seem a practical approach.
TEACH THEM YOUNG
Children should be taught “STRANGER DANGER” from a young age. They should never accept any sweets offered nor venture to follow a stranger anywhere, this goes for family as well. It is distressing to note that in a majority of child abduction cases the perpetrator is someone who is known to the family so be extremely pedantic about who you trust around your children. Encourage your child to let you know when someone has inappropriately touched them. From as young as three years, this should be the golden rule with children, boys and girls. No exceptions. Teach children what to do if they cannot find you in a crowded place. Where to go, who to find to help them. For older children, with access to a smart-phone there are a number of apps that could be used to keep track of their location, it’s spying on them when you know where they are at all times. Not in this day and age. Your child should also know your cellphone number or have a note pinned to younger children with your details.
It isn’t Summer unless there’s water fun on the agenda. With 2 000 fatal drownings in South Africa a year, this does however dampen the mood (no pun intended). Most fatal drowning incidents occur in backyard pools and the beach, that’s why learning water-safety and being aware of drowning dangers is so important.
Never take your eyes off your child when she’s in or around water. Young children can drown silently in as little as 2.5 seconds, this includes in the shallow-end or baby pools. Kids who are not experienced swimmers need constant supervision, so ensure you have them in your line of vision at all times. Once your child has learned to swim for long intervals and float on his back, you may relax a little but no matter how old they are, always ensure adult supervision. Accidents happen.
Don’t rely on inflatable toys, arm-bands, loungers or pool noodles. Parents put too faith in these because they were made to make life easier. These are a hazard with young ones and are known to entice kids into the pool when no one’s watching.
Be prepared to handle the worst case scenario. In the event there is a distressed swimmer, conducting CPR while you wait for the ambulance to arrive could save someone’s life. It is advisable to sign up for a CPR course.
What is the festive season known for? Reckless drivers who are under the influence of alcohol! It’s the most perilous time of the year for travellers, with road accidents and road carnage spiking to all time highs over the past few years. Last year alone 845 people died on the country’s roads, a 17% increase during the same period the year before.
On closer inspection of the figures, a lack of inter-personal respect among motorists is the contributing factor. Speed, reckless driving, being under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicating substances, driver attitude, fatigue and unsafe motor vehicles were amongst some of the reasons for the fatal crashes.
Some safety driving tips for the holidays include:
- Planning your route
- Sleep well the night before you travel
- Stop and rest
- Have more than one licensed, designated driver (where possible)
- Don’t rush
- Drink lots of water
- Open your windows
- Obey the rules of the road
- Stick to the speed limit
- Wear seatbelts
- Don’t drink & drive
- Don’t be distracted – put your cellphones down
Children should also be taught not to play near the street/at busy intersections and the basic pedestrian road safety rules should be taught from a young age. Never leave your child outside unsupervised.
The holidays always bring with it feelings of excitement and so it should, but it can also be a really bleak time when an accident occurs and you lose a loved one. Sheer negligence doesn’t have to ruin your #Summerdaze of fun. Just make sure safety is not overlooked and you can enjoy this much deserved break with your family.