The Most Dangerous Mistakes People Make in the Summer

And more importantly, how to avoid them.

Carefree days at the pool or beach, backyard barbecues, setting off fireworks, and road trips all make summer a season of relaxation. But according to the National Safety Council, it's also a time when people make dangerous mistakes, especially around water. "Drowning is the second leading cause of death between the ages of five and 42," says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL, a 122-year-old independent organization that tests and certifies products for safety. "There are more than seven million pools in the U.S. and tragically, nearly 400 kids drown annually." The good news? By following a few common sense rules, you can keep every member of your family safe all summer long.

1. Not paying enough attention to your kids

When kids are in or near water, they need constant adult supervision. Follow the 10/20 rule, says Dregenberg: "Scan the water every 10 seconds and be within 20 seconds of reaching it."

2. Treating toys as flotation devices


Don't rely on water wings, noodles, or inner tubes to supplement poor swimming skills. They are toys, not life jackets, and can easily deflate.

3. Leaving the pool gate unlocked

Pools should have layers of safety around them, including a tall fence with a self-latching gate and alarms. Be sure to lock the gate after each use: Kids can be surprisingly resourceful when it comes to sneaking into off-limits places. If a child goes missing, always check the pool first.


4. Not emptying the kiddie pool

Young children can drown in a few inches of water, so it's important to empty wading pools after each use.

5. Using gasoline to start a barbecue

Always use charcoal starter fluid, not gasoline, and never add more propellant once the fire has started: It can flare up dangerously. Every year more than 3 billion meals are served from backyard grills, and more than 8,000 of those cause structure fires, says Drengenberg. Make sure your grill—natural gas, propane, or charcoal—bears the UL seal.


6. Not using proper barbecue tools

Wear insulated, flame-retardant mitts and use long handled utensils while grilling. Keep a spray bottle filled with water and a fire extinguisher nearby.

7. Dumping hot coals on the ground

Never leave hot coals on the ground. They can reach 1,000 degrees, and hundred of kids are treated in emergency rooms each year for burns received by stepping on hot coals. Let coals cool in the grill or smother them completely with water.


8. Storing propane in a warm location

Never store extra propane tanks near the grill, in bright sunlight, or in the trunk of a car—it could heat up and explode. Keep it in a cool location.

9. Grilling in the garage

Always grill outdoors. Not only is there a danger of fire in the garage, but the charcoal from grills and hibachis emits carbon monoxide.

10. Not wearing a life jacket

Every year, 74 million Americans enjoy boating excursions, but in 2014, the Coast Guard counted more than 5,000 drowning incidents and 2,678 injuries. Hazards include passengers falling overboard and boats capsizing or colliding. Make sure everyone onboard wears a UL-approved life vest that fits their size and weight. Even good swimmers can drown in fast-moving water.

11. Ignoring the weather


If you're on the water when the weather turns stormy, play it safe. Head for the shore as soon as possible.

12. Leaving your child in the car

A couple of years ago, 24 kids died of hyperthermia after being left in hot cars. "Most were under the age of one and [the incidents] occurred when parents altered their routines," says Alderete. Check the back seat every time you get out of the car, whether kids are present or not. Since infants and toddlers fall asleep when they ride, it's far too easy to forget them. Place your cell phone, purse, briefcase, or gym bag in the back seat as a reminder. If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, dial an emergency number. The time of exposure is the difference between life and death. Visit noheatstroke.org for more info.

13. Playing in the driveway


Establish a safety zone where kids must stand when a vehicle is leaving or entering the driveway. Run-over injuries occur most often when small children play or dart behind moving cars—particularly SUVs and trucks with limited rear vision.

14. Leaving your car unlocked

Keep your vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage—children can easily set them in motion. If a child goes missing, check vehicles second after the pool.

15. Texting while driving

Do we even need to say it? Put down your phone. Cell phones are the number-one distraction.

16. Not watching your kid on the playground


Despite all the advances in playground equipment over the last decade, 20,000 children under the age of 14 are treated for traumatic brain injuries, primarily received in falls. The best way to avoid accidents at playgrounds? Adult supervision—put the cell phones down and pay attention.

17. Installing playgrounds improperly

Locate play sets away from rocks, tree stumps and overhanging branches, and make sure swings are separated from other equipment. The surface beneath play equipment—whether mulch, sand, pea gravel or shredded tires—should be at least 12 inches deep. Check the equipment for protruding bolts, hooks and rungs that can impale or cut a child. Tip: Pinch "S" hooks that attach swings to the overhead bar so tightly a coin cannot fit into the space.

18. Letting toddlers climb on playgrounds


Don't let children under the age of four play on climbing equipment or horizontal ladders. Watch out for platforms without railings, too.

19. Leaving children unattended with sparklers

According to Dregenberg, even seemingly innocuous sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals, which means they can quickly ignite clothing. Don't allow children to use fireworks without close adult supervision, and always keep a hose or bucket of water close by, just in case.

20. Forgetting to wear sunscreen

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you, particularly sunshine.UV rays cause mutations in our DNA that can lead to melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that kills one person every hour. "UV radiation from the sun is a carcinogen much like tobacco smoke," says Delphine Lee, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist at John Wayne Cancer Center Institute in Santa Monica, CA. SPF 30 is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, but regardless of the strength, it must be reapplied every 2 hours to be effective.


21. Using spray-on sunscreen

Sunblock lotion is more effective than spray because it's easier to determine the coverage. Use the equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen with every application.

22. Going outside during peak hours

Avoid the sun between the peak hours. Rule of thumb: If your shadow is shorter than you are, it's time to seek shade. It's important to note that even though people with dark complexions have some natural sun protection, they're not immune to burning, particularly on their hands and the soles of their feet.


23. Not wearing sunglasses

Our retinas have pigment cells that are also susceptible to melanoma, so it's important to wear sunglasses with UV protection. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and hats with large brims, or specially treated swimsuit attire to completely avoid exposing other parts of the body to damaging sun rays. "If you want a dose of vitamin D, purchase a supplement," says Dr. Lee. If you're set on getting some color, go the faux route: Tanning beds are the equivalent of stepping into a bed of toxic waste," warns Dr. Lee.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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