Schools across the WHO European Region have closed or will soon close their doors for the summer. This means many families will pack their bags and head off on holiday – often driving to vacation destinations and frequently spending much of their time around water, whether on boats, swimming at beaches or playing in pools. While these activities can be a wonderful way to pass the summer holidays, they do come with risks.
Every year, 2200 children aged 5–14 die from road traffic injuries in the Region – the leading cause of death for this age group. More than 1400 children in this same age group die each year due to drowning. Adolescents and young adults are also at high risk: 18 500 people aged 15–29 are killed each year in road traffic crashes in the Region – the second leading cause of death. A further 4000 die due to drowning.
While not all of these tragic deaths occur during the school holidays, this is an especially important time for parents, caregivers and members of the community to be extra vigilant about safety.
Here are 10 different ways students and their parents can help keep their summer holidays safe.
- When on a driving holiday, remember that driving faster does not guarantee arriving at your destination earlier. In fact, it significantly increases the risk of a crash, injury or death for you and your family. Your risk of these outcomes increases by 5% with every kilometre per hour that your speed increases. Posted speed limits are maximum legal limits; they are not a guide, recommendation or suggestion. Respect these limits and drive according to the road conditions to keep your family safe.
- Fatigue can impair a driver just as much as alcohol, drugs or medicines. When driving long distances, remember to take a break every 2 hours. Higher temperatures also increase drowsiness, so it is important to stay hydrated and ensure your vehicle is well ventilated.
- Child seats may take up extra room, but they are absolutely vital to ensuring children’s safety when travelling in a car. Always leave the space necessary to mount a proper child seat, appropriate for the child’s age and size.
- Never leave a child alone in the car on a hot day. Fatal dehydration can occur within a matter of minutes. A sleeping child or a young child in a seat with restraints will not be able to get out of the car on their own.
- Drivers may not be accustomed to seeing children out on the streets in their community during school hours. During the school holidays, they should be particularly aware of children at pedestrian crossings, riding bicycles, on scooters and so forth. When school resumes after summer, drivers should pay special attention to safety on the roads around schools and should always adhere to speed limits. Standard 30 kilometres per hour urban speed limits are not set arbitrarily; they reflect the maximum speed before pedestrians will face serious or fatal injuries on impact.
Water safety and drowning prevention
Follow these 3 key rules for safe swimming: Never swim alone, never swim after consuming alcohol, and always swim in recognized and safe swimming locations – preferably with lifeguard patrols and safety equipment present.
- Young children can only be supervised by adults when swimming, not by older children who have their own interest in playing or can be easily distracted.
- Effective adult supervision requires constant vigilance. If you are reading a book, responding to an email on your phone or engaged in other activities, you are not watching your children. A drowning tragedy can happen very quickly and even when adults are nearby.
- Make sure to use personal flotation devices, particularly when boating or fishing on open water. Conditions can change quickly, and even experienced swimmers may find themselves in trouble. It is estimated that 85% of annual boating-related drownings could be prevented by using a personal flotation device.
- Parents and caregivers should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – it can save a child’s life in a near-drowning situation. If you have a pool at home, isolation fencing is one of the most effective strategies to prevent young children from accessing the water unsupervised.