The safety of children is potentially at risk from accidents and injuries, as well as crime. Providing a safe environment, putting prevention measures into practice, and teaching children methods of self-protection are all ways to reduce the potential for harm to children.
Accidents are the leading cause of death for children aged 14 and under in the United States, claiming more than 5600 lives each year, or an average of 15 children per day. More than 16 percent of all hospitalizations for accidental injuries among children lead to permanent disability. Although the accidental injury death rate declined among children ages 14 and under by almost 40 percent from 1987 to 2000, accidental injury remained in the early 2000s the number one killer of this age group. In 2000, the leading cause of fatal accidental injury among children was motor vehicle occupant injury (28%), followed by drowning (16%) and airway obstruction injury (14%). Falls (36%) were the leading cause of nonfatal, hospital emergency room-treated childhood injury in 2001. Other frequent causes of accidental injuries and deaths are fire and burn injury, accidental firearm injury, and poisoning .
Another way children may have their safety jeopardized is by becoming victims of crime. Child abductions are often publicized widely and cause parents to experience a great deal of anxiety and fear regarding this possibility. Another relatively new place children face potential dangers is on the "information highway." Though the Internet opens a world of possibilities to children, there are individuals who may attempt to exploit and harm children through this technology.
Though the idea of the number of potential risks children face may seem overwhelming to parents, there are a variety of measures parents can take to reduce those risks.
Motor vehicle occupant injury
In 2001, motor vehicle accidents resulted in 36 percent of accidental deaths in children ages one to four. In the early 2000s an estimated 14 percent of children ages 14 and under continued to ride unrestrained, however, and 55 percent of those children killed in motor vehicle accidents were not restrained. Also, at that time, nearly one-third of children rode in the wrong restraint for their zage and size, and an estimated 82 percent of child safety seats were installed or used incorrectly. The following measures will help parents keep their children safe:
- Car seats need to meet federal safety standards. A car seat with a five-point harness will provide the best protection. In addition, the car seat needs to be the correct size for the child and needs to fits properly into the vehicle.
- The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system in cars manufactured after September 1, 2002, should be used. Some car seats require that parents attach additional hardware for maximum protection.
- The child must face in the right direction. Infants should ride in a car seat that faces the rear of the car until they are one year of age and weigh approximately 20 lbs (9 kg). Infants who weigh 20 lbs (9 kg) before they are one need a restraint approved for the higher weight and should also be rear-facing.
- Car seats should be installed correctly. The car seat should be held tightly against the car's back seat. After installing the car seat, parents need to make certain they cannot move it more than one inch from side to side or front to back. Police departments and community organizations frequently hold child restraint inspections, during which parents can discover if they have installed their car seats properly.
- Rear-facing car seats should not be placed in the front seat of a car that has air bags. Children 12 and under should ride in the back seat in order to avoid being hurt by inflating airbags. Generally, the back seat of the car is the safest place in a crash.
- Children need to stay in a safety seat with a full harness for as long as possible, at least until they weigh 40 lbs (18 kg). Afterwards, they can use a belt-positioning booster seat, which provides a taller sitting height so that the adult lap and shoulder belts fit correctly.
- When older children are 57 inches (1.45 m) tall and weigh 80 lbs (36 kg), they may use adult lap belts.
- Children need to be restrained every time they ride in a car.
- Children should never be left alone in or around a vehicle. Unattended children can quickly die from heat stroke or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Drowning remains the second leading cause of accidental injury-related deaths among children ages 14 and under, claiming 943 children in 2000. An estimated 4700 children required treatment in hospital emergency departments for drowning-related incidents in 2001. As many as 20 percent of children who survive near-drowning suffer severe, permanent neurological disability. Children ages one to four are at the highest risk of drowning. The following measures may significantly reduce the drowning risk for your child:
- Parents and caregivers should never, even for a moment, leave children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas, or wading pools or near any other open standing water. Infant bath seats are not a substitute for adult supervision. Parents should remove all water from containers, such as pails and buckets, immediately after use.
- If the home has a swimming pool, it should be surrounded by a fence that prevents children from having direct access to the pool from the house. Remove toys from in and around the pool, as toys can attract children to the pool.
- Parents should enroll their child in swimming lessons when they are old enough (usually not before age four), but should remember that these lessons do not provide protection against drowning for children of any age.
- Children should be taught to always swim with a buddy. In addition, they should be instructed never to dive into an unknown body of water, but instead jump in feet first to avoid hitting their heads.
- When boating, every person must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Air-filled swimming aids (such as water wings) cannot take the place of life preservers.
- Parents need to teach their children about the risks of drowning in the cold weather months. Children should not walk, skate, or ride on thawing ice on any body of water.
- Parents should learn CPR and keep a telephone close to the area where their children are swimming.
Poisoning is a common cause of home accidents, with toddlers being the ones most vulnerable. Children are at risk of poisoning from household and personal care products, medicines, vitamins , indoor plants, lead, and carbon monoxide. In 2000, 91 children ages 14 and under died as a result of accidental poisoning. Approximately 114,000 children in this age group were treated in the emergency room for accidental poisonings in 2001. People can keep children safe by being aware of the potential hazards in the home and by following these guidelines:
- Medications and cleaning solutions need to be stored in locked cabinets.
- Medication lids need to be tightly closed with child-resistant caps.
- Parents should avoid taking medicine in front of children and never refer to pills as candy, as children often mimic the behavior of adults.
- Parents should check the garage for any toxic chemicals and gasoline containers. Items such as windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, and pesticides are poisonous and should be placed where children cannot reach them. In addition, these kinds of items should never be kept in juice or milk bottles.
- Poisonous plants in the home need to be identified and either removed or placed where children cannot reach them.
- Carbon monoxide detectors/alarms should be installed in homes and recreational vehicles. These should be placed in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home.
- Insect sprays should not be used around food.
- All painted furniture and toys should be checked for non-toxic finishes.
- The Poison Control Center phone number should be posted in a prominent place, where family members and other caregivers can find it quickly. Caregivers should call the Poison Control Center (1–800–222–1222) immediately when a poisoning incident is suspected. The experts at the Poison Center provide directions on the appropriate actions to take.
Fire and burn injuries
Fire and burn injury is the fifth leading cause of child accidental injury-related death. Children make up 20 percent of all fire deaths, and over 30 percent of all fires that kill children are set by children playing with fire. Children of all ages set over 100,000 fires each year, and approximately 20,000 of these are set in homes. Children aged four and under are at the greatest risk, with a fire- and burn-related death rate nearly twice that of all children. This circumstance occurs for several reasons. Young children have a less acute perception of danger and a limited ability to properly respond to a life-threatening burn or fire situation. They are also more susceptible to fire-related asphyxiation, as well as more prone to burns than adults. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) encourages parents to teach children at an early age about the dangers of playing with fire in order to help prevent child injuries, fire deaths, and the number of fires set in homes. The following suggestions will aid in keeping children safe from fires:
- Young children need to be supervised closely. They should not be left alone even for short periods of time.
- Lighters and matches should be kept in a secured area and children taught to tell an adult if they find lighters or matches.
- Parents should look for indications that children may be playing with fire, for burnt matches under beds or in closets.
- Families need a home fire escape plan and to practice it with the children. A meeting place outdoors should be designated.
- Children should be taught that if a fire occurs, they should crawl low on the floor, below the smoke, and get out of the house according to the escape plan. They should not attempt to get back in the house.
- Children need to know how to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if their clothes catch on fire.
- Parents should install smoke alarms on every level in the home, and familiarize children with the sound of the smoke alarm. They should test the alarm monthly and replace the battery at least yearly. Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases residents' chances of surviving a fire.
- The thermostat on the hot water heater should be set to 120°F (49°C) or lower. The water temperature should be checked when bathing or showering children.
- Do not drink or carry very hot beverages or soup when holding a child.
- Access to the stove should be blocked if possible. Foods should be cooked on the back burners with pot handles turned away from the front of the stove. Parents and caregivers should avoid holding a baby or small child while they are cooking.
Each year, nearly 3 million children in the United States are injured in falls. For those under five, falls cause more than half of all injuries. Even close supervision is not adequate, as falls can happen very quickly. They can occur at home as well as away from home. Although most falls result in only mild bumps and bruises , many cause serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. Following these guidelines may help to prevent children from becoming injured in a fall:
- Playgrounds should have soft surfaces to cushion children if they should fall. Examples of soft surfaces are those made of items like bark mulch, wood chips, sand, pea gravel, or shredded tires. Avoid concrete, asphalt, and dirt surfaces. Even sod can be too hard under certain weather conditions.
- Chairs and other pieces of furniture in the home should be kept away from windows. Windows should be closed and locked when children are around. Residential windows in tall buildings should have bars or window guards. Window screens may not prevent children from falling out a window.
- Stairways must be clear to prevent children from tripping over clutter.
- Throw rugs should be secured to the floor with a rubber pad, double-sided tape, or a piece of foam carpet backing.
- Safety gates can keep toddlers away from stairs. Gates should be attached to the wall if they are used at the top of a staircase.
- Safety belts keep children from falling from shopping carts.
- As children get older and start riding a bike, a scooter, or using skates, they should always wear a correctly fitting helmet. If a child falls from one of these while wearing a helmet, the risk of a brain injury is reduced by 88 percent. A properly fitting helmet sits evenly on top of the head (low on the forehead, no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows), should be comfortable but snug, and have straps firm enough so that the helmet will not rock forward, backward, or side to side.
Airway obstruction injury
Children, especially those under the age of three, are quite vulnerable to airway obstruction injury because they have small upper airways and have relative inexperience with chewing. They also have a tendency to place objects in their mouths. On average, infants account for approximately 64 percent of choking deaths among children ages 14 and under. Causes of choking or airway obstruction-injury deaths include suffocation by things such as pillows, choking on food or small objects, and strangulation from window blind and clothing strings. Anything children can place in their mouths can be dangerous. Taking the following steps will help protect children:
- Parents should avoid giving children under age four any hard, smooth foods that may block or partially block their airway. These include all nuts, sunflower seeds, watermelon with seeds, cherries with pits, popcorn, hard candy, raw carrots, raw peas, and raw celery.
- Certain soft foods, such as hot dogs, grapes, and link sausages, should be chopped into small pieces. These foods can cause choking because they are the right shape to block the windpipe.
- When babies start to eat solid food, parents need to beware of foods such as raw apples or pears. Raw fruit is difficult for babies to chew properly because their teeth are just developing.
- Children should sit still while eating and chew food thoroughly.
- Children should not run, ride in the car, or play sports with gum, lollipops, or candy in their mouths.
- Buttons, beads, and other small objects need to be stored safely out of children's reach.
- Drawstrings should be removed from children's coats and sweatshirts. Also window blind cords that pose a risk for strangulation should be removed.
- Parents should follow manufacturer's recommendations regarding toys and check toys frequently for loose or broken parts.
- Older children should not to leave toys with small pieces or loose game parts where younger children can reach them.
- A latex balloon should not be given to a child younger than age eight. Children can choke by inhaling the balloon or a portion of it into their windpipes.
- Parents should obtain and use a "small parts tester," an inexpensive child safety device that shows if an object is small enough to fit in a child's mouth.
Accidental firearm injury
In the year 2000, 193 children in the United States ages new infant to 19 died from accidental injuries involving firearms. A child as young as three has the finger strength to pull a trigger. Some studies show that by age eight, 90 percent of children are capable of firing a gun. Whether people are gun collectors, hunters, or fierce gun control advocates, they need to ensure their families' safety by talking with their children about the potential dangers of guns and what to do if one is found. Parents should assume that their children may come across a gun at some point in their youth and proactively teach them about gun safety. There are a number of programs available that instruct children, including the very popular "Eddie Eagle," a program of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This program offers a four-step approach to gun safety: stop, don't touch, leave the area, and tell an adult. People who own firearms should follow these guidelines to prevent accidental shootings:
- Guns need to be stored unloaded in a securely locked case and out of children's reach.
- Trigger locks and other safety features should be used.
- Ammunition should be stored in a separate place from the firearms, locked in a container that is out of children's reach.
- Gun owners should take a firearms safety course to learn the correct and safe way to use the firearm, and they should practice firearm safety. Children need to be taught that guns are not toys. They need to be taught to always tell an adult about any gun they happen to find.
While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities to children, it also may expose them to a variety of dangers. Teenagers are particularly at risk because they are more likely to go online unsupervised and are more likely than younger children to participate in online discussions. Risks posed by the Internet include the following:
- Exposure to inappropriate material that is sexual, violent, hateful, or that encourages activities that are dangerous or illegal.
- Exposure to information or arrangements for an encounter that could risk children's safety or the safety of other family members. In some cases child molesters have used chat rooms, email, and instant messaging to gain a child's trust and then to arrange a face-to-face meeting.
There are several signs that children may be at risk online. These include their spending large amounts of time online, especially in the evenings; the presence of pornography on their computers; their making or receiving calls from men parents do not know; their receiving mail, gifts, or packages from people parents do not know; their turning off the monitor or quickly changing the screen on the monitor when parents enter the room; their becoming withdrawn from the family; and their using an online account that belongs to someone else.
Parents should not feel powerless in the face of these online risks. There are a variety of measures they can take to minimize the chances of an online exploiter victimizing their child. These include the following:
- Children need to be warned about the potential dangers online and about sexual victimization.
- Parents should spend time online with children.
- Computer should be kept in a common room in the house, not in the child's bedroom. It is more difficult for a predator to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to other members of the household.
- Parental controls and/or blocking software should be used.
- Parents should maintain access to the child's online account and randomly check his or her email. They should be open with children about parental access and state the reasons for it.
- Children should be instructed never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online; never to upload pictures of themselves onto the Internet to people they do not know; never to give out identifying information such as their name, address, school name, or telephone number; never to download pictures from an unknown source; and never to respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, or harassing.
Publicized crimes involving childhood abductions, although rare occurrences, frighten many parents and make them unsure about how best to protect their children. According to one study, in 57 percent of the cases, the victims of child-abduction murder were victims of opportunity. The tips noted below will help parents lessen the opportunity for abduction and kidnapping and better safeguard their children:
- Parents should teach children to run away from danger, never towards it. Danger is defined as anything or anyone that invades their personal space. Children should be taught to yell loudly, as their safety is more important than being polite.
- Children should not be allowed to go places alone, and they should always be supervised directly by parents or by another trusted adult. Older children should always take a friend along when they go somewhere.
- Parents should know where and with whom children are at all times. They should know children's friends and be clear about the places and homes they may visit. Children should habitually contact their parents when they arrive and leave a destination and if their plans change.
- Parents should talk openly with children about safety and encourage them to report to trusted adults anything or anyone makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened. Children should know they have the right to say no to any unwelcome, confusing, or uncomfortable attention by others and that they should tell parents immediately whenever such an experience occurs.
- Babysitters and caregivers should be screened and their references checked.
- Instead of confusing children with messages about avoiding strangers, Parents should identify adults to whom children may talk. Parents should list the people by name whom they permit their children to visit.
- Parents should avoid using code words but instead use the "check first" method. Children should be taught not to talk to anyone, go with anyone, or accept gifts or candy from anyone without first checking with their parents or trusted adults in charge.
In spite of taking precautions and putting safety measures into place, accidents, injuries, and crime may still take place. All children should be taught how to call for help in an emergency. Instruct them to dial 911 when emergency assistance is needed and to remain on the phone as long as they are directed to do so.
Children can injure themselves in the blink of an eye. Parents can turn their heads away for a moment, and a child could pull down a boiling pot of food or swallow something and choke on it. It is impossible for new parents to anticipate all the potential dangers or safety problems around babies and children. The trick to keeping an environment safe for children is to stay one step ahead of them at all times. By spotting dangers before an injury happens, parents can protect their children from harm and protect themselves from stress and heartache. As children develop, some of the potential dangers may change. What does not change is the responsibility parents have to provide a safe, trusting environment in which their children can thrive.
|Know where your children are at all times.|
|Be sensitive to changes in your child's behavior.|
|Talk with your child about their schoolwork and activities regularly.|
|Get to know your child's teachers, friends, and friends' families.|
|Listen sincerely to your children.|
|Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your child.|
|Make sure your children know what to do when approached by a stranger.|
|Don't put your child's name on clothing in a way that is visible to others.|
|Be aware of your child's time and activities online.|
Airway obstruction injury —An injury that obstructs the airway and prevents proper breathing, either through strangulation, suffocation, or choking.
See also Childproofing.
Benson, Allen C. Connecting Kids and the Web: A Handbook for Teaching Internet Use and Safety. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2003.
Joyce, Julie. What Should You Do?: Safety Tips for Kids. Calumet, IL: Dynamic Publishing, 2004.
O'Neill, Heather. "How to Protect Your Child From Falls." Parenting (August 1, 2003): 45+.
"Prevention of Drowning in Infants, Children, and Adolescents." Journal of Pediatrics (August 2003): 437–40.
Consumer Product Safety Commission. Washington, DC 20207–0001. Web site: <www.cpsc.gov>.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Mailstop K65, 4770 Buford Highway NE, Atlanta, GA 30341–3724. Web site: <www.cdc.gov/ncipc/ncipchm.htm>.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Charles B. Wang International Children's Building, 699 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314–3175. Web site: <www.missingkids.org>
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590. Web site: <www.nhtsa.gov>.
National SAFE KIDS Campaign. 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004. Web site: <www.safekids.org>.
"Buying a Safer Car for Child Passengers 2004." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Available online at <www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/BASCKids2004/index.htm> (accessed August 14, 2004).
"Report to the Nation: Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Mortality, 1987–2000." National Safe Kids Campaign, May 2003. Available online at <www.safekids.org/content_documents/nskw03_report.pdf> (accessed August 14, 2004).
Deanna M. Swartout-Corbeil, RN
Sections within this essay:Background
Child Passenger Safety
Proper Child Safety Seat Use
Booster Seat Safety
Child Safety Law Exemptions
Safety Belt Laws
Standard Enforcement Information
Highway Safety Grant Programs for Occupant Protection Activities
Blood Alcohol Content
Intoxicated Drivers Repeat Offender Laws
Section 164 of 23 U.S.C.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Center for Auto Safety (CAS)
Kids 'N Cars
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Those who drive cars may not realize the amount of thought that goes into safety, both in terms of safety equipment in the vehicle and the requirements of safe driving. Safety is incorporated into the U.S. driving culture in many ways. From safety belts and air bags, to motorcycle helmet laws and driving while impaired laws, there is a delicate balance between the government's role of protecting the driving and pedestrian population through safety laws and regulations and the public's and the automobile industry's privacy interests.
For the most part, market forces determined how manufacturers addressed safety issues in their vehicles. There was a good deal of tension between obvious safety hazards and the public's unwillingness to pay for vehicle modifications or features that appeared to be "optional." But in the 1960s, a grassroots level movement, led by Ralph Nader and others, sought to inform the public, auto manufacturers, and the government about the serious safety risks in vehicles.
The late 1960s saw the first regulatory measures to make cars safer. For example, the threat of a federal mandate for auto manufacturers to install anchors for front safety belts prompted the industry to install them "voluntarily" as standard equipment. In hearings in 1965, testimony from many physicians resulted in a recommendation that all cars sold in the state of New York would have by 1968 the seventeen safety features already required in federally owned vehicles. Around that time Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and Washington also conducted hearings on automobile safety.
As of 2002, there are large federal agencies that oversee an enormous array of federal laws and regulations that are intended to safeguard American drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. These are supplemented by many additional laws and regulations in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions.
Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories have child passenger safety laws on the books. These do much to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from vehicle crashes. But the biggest problem with these laws remains the significant gaps and exemptions in coverage that diminish the protection that all children need in motor vehicles.
According to the September 1998 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, the best predictor of child occupant restraint use is adult safety belt use. In other words, an adult driver who is buckled up is far more likely to restrain a child passenger than one who is not buckled.
Perhaps the single most important rule about children in vehicles is that children should be seated in the back seat at all times.
The proper seating information for infants, birth to one year or up to twenty-two pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the infant should face the rear
- Harness straps should be at or below the shoulders
- Infants should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags.
The proper seating information for toddlers, twenty-two to forty pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the child should face forward,
- Harness straps should be above shoulder level.
- Toddlers should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags.
The proper seating information for preschool children, forty to eighty pounds is:
- They need a belt positioning booster seat,
- They should face forward,
- Their booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts,
- The lap belt should fit low and tight.
There are child safety seat laws in every state plus the District of Columbia. Police and other law enforcement officers are allowed to issue a citation when they see a violation of these laws. There are some 18 states that have gaps in their child passenger restraint laws; in these states, some children are not covered by either a child safety seat law or a safety belt law. Additionally, in states where children are protected under the safety belt law as opposed to specific child safety seat laws, police may enforce the law only if a driver violates an additional law.
Safety belt laws do protect children. For example, the NHTSA found that when Louisiana upgraded its safety belt law from secondary to standard enforcement, compliance with child restraint rules rose from 45 percent to 82 percent without any other change in the state's child passenger safety law.
Automobile accidents are a leading cause of death and injury for American children. Approximately 500 of the nearly 19.5 million children in the five to nine year-old age group die in automobile accidents. About 100,000 more are injured in automobile crashes each year. Although the fatality rate has decreased for other age groups in the same time period, the fatality rate in automobile crashes for this age group has remained constant over the past twenty years. That is why this particular age group is sometimes known as "the forgotten child;" they have outgrown toddler-sized child safety seats but do not yet fit into adult safety belts properly. Despite this problem, neither government nor industry has made concerted efforts to address the safety needs of children ages five to nine.
Booster seats are one answer to this problem; they provide a proper safety belt fit. Booster seats lift children up off vehicle seats. This improves the fit of the adult safety belt on children. If used properly, boosters should also position the lap belt portion of the adult safety belt across the child's legs or pelvic area. An improper fit of an adult safety belt can expose a child to abdominal or neck injury because the lap belt rides up over the stomach and the shoulder belt cuts across the neck. When a child is restrained in an age-appropriate child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt, his or her chance of being killed or seriously injured in a car crash is greatly reduced.
The facts about booster seat laws are sobering. For example, only seven states have booster seat laws: Arkansas, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia require all children up to age 16 to be restrained in every seating position. The other states require child re-straint systems for children up to ages two, three, or four, with a few more requiring the use of safety belts after the age of four. According to some estimates, as many as 630 additional children's lives would be saved and 182,000 serious injuries prevented every year if the states closed all the gaps in their child occupant protection laws and all children—ages birth to fifteen years old—were properly restrained.
Several states have enacted laws which exempt children from passenger restraint laws in certain circumstances or under unique circumstances. These vary widely from state to state. The following is a list of some of the most common exemptions:
- Overcrowded vehicles. In nearly half of the states, children can ride unsecured if all safety belts are otherwise in use.
- "Attending to the personal needs of the child." This vague exemption may cover many activities.
- Medical waivers for children with special medical needs. These exemptions may disappear as advances in child restraint systems make it possible to accommodate children with most types of physical disabilities.
- Out-of-state vehicles, drivers, and children. Children in many states are frequently exempted if the vehicle or driver is from another state.
- Drivers who are not the vehicle owner or who are not related to the children being carried. Some states have laws that do not hold the driver responsible for unrestrained children.
It is clear from the statistics that lives are saved when drivers and passengers in vehicles use safety belts. This is especially true when safety belt use is reinforced by meaningful safety belt laws. According to NHTSA, as of 2002, approximately 61 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing safety belts. This figure is down from 65 percent in 1998.
Every state except New Hampshire has safety belt laws, but only 17 states and the District of Columbia have standard enforcement of their belt laws. Standard enforcement laws allow police officers to stop vehicles if the driver or front seat passenger is observed not wearing a safety belt; the law also applies to drivers who have not properly restrained a child. Secondary enforcement laws allow officers to issue a citation for failing to wear a safety belt only after stopping the vehicle for another traffic infraction.
Some have raised concerns that standard enforcement laws could lead to police harassment of minorities. However, according to a 1999 NHTSA report, surveys in California and Louisiana conducted shortly after these states upgraded to standard enforcement found that neither Hispanics (California) nor African Americans (Louisiana) reported receiving a greater number of safety belt citations than the public as a whole.
Currently, seventeen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary laws in effect. Another thirty-two states have secondary enforcement laws, and New Hampshire has no seat belt use law at all. Fines for not wearing a safety belt in the United States currently range from a low of $5 in Idaho to a high of $75 in Oregon. In twenty-seven states, the fine is just $20-25.
Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in May of 1998. There are several programs in TEA-21 that make a direct impact on seat belt use and occupant protection. The three most important programs funded by the Act are:
- Section 157 Seat Belt Incentive Grant program. This program authorized half a billion dollars over five years to encourage states to increase seat belt use rates. States apply for grant money under this program and may use grant funds for any eligible Title 23 project (including approved construction projects). The TEA-21 Act also encourages innovative state-level projects that promote increased seat belt use rates and child passenger safety activities.
- Section 405 (a) Occupant Protection Incentive Grant program. This program deploys $83 million over five years to target specific occupant protection laws and programs. States can receive grants under this program if they demonstrate that they have enacted certain occupant protection laws and programs, such as primary safety belt use laws and special traffic enforcement programs.
- Section 2003 (b) program. This portion of the TEA-21 established a two-year program for year 2000 and 2001. In the program, states received grants if they implemented child passenger protection education and training activities.
Motorcycle helmets are proven to save the lives of motorcyclists, and they help prevent serious brain injuries. Twenty states and the District of Columbia require motorcycle drivers and their passengers to use helmets. Twenty-seven other states have laws that apply to some riders only, particularly those younger than 18. Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa have no motorcycle helmet requirements at all.
Helmet laws increase motorcycle helmet use, thus saving lives and reducing serious injuries. The NHTSA reports that in 2000 there were 2,862 motorcycle riders killed on U.S. roads and highways. This number represents a 15 percent increase from 1999. There were 58,000 motorcycle-related injuries in 2000, a 16 percent increase from 1999.
Speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all fatal crashes. Speeding entails exceeding the posted speed limit; it also means driving too fast for conditions (such as in fog, rain, or icy road conditions), regardless of the posted speed limit. Some 6.3 million vehicular crashes were reported in 2000.
When drivers speed, they cause the following:
- reduction in the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash,
- increase the likelihood of a crash
- increase the severity of a crash once it occurs
According to a report issued by the NHTSA in 2000, speed was a factor in 30 percent (12,628) of all traffic fatalities in 1999. It was second only to alcohol (39 percent) as a cause of fatal crashes.
Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995. Accordingly, speeds increased on Interstate highways in the states that raised their speed limits. Twenty-four states raised their speed limits in late 1995 and in 1996. Twenty-nine states have currently raised speed limits to 70 MPH or higher on portions of their roads and highways.
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for Americans ages six through thirty-three. Alcohol-related crashes are a big part of this problem. But alcohol-related accidents account for an inordinately large percentage of all deaths in automobile crashes. In fact, every 33 minutes someone is killed in an alcohol-related crash.
Individuals absorb alcohol at different rates. The main reason is body weight, but a number of other factors affect blood alcohol content (BAC):
- body type
- rate of metabolism, medications taken
- the strength of the drinks
- whether drinkers have eaten recently
Despite these factors, though, just one drink will degrade the physical and mental acuity of practically everyone. A person with a BAC in the range of.08 to.10 is considered legally intoxicated in every state. It takes just a few drinks to get there, even if drinkers do not "feel" the effects of the alcohol.
State law uses four general methods to deal with the problem of repeated offenses by intoxicated drivers. These are:
- Addressing Alcohol Abuse: Some states require drivers with repeat violations to be assessed for their degrees of alcohol abuse; some also mandate appropriate treatment.
- Licensing Sanctions: Suspending or revoking licenses of repeat intoxicated drivers for a greater period of time than they for first offenders is the law in most states.
- Mandatory Sentencing: Some states have mandatory minimum sentences for repeat intoxicated drivers.
- Vehicle Sanctions: Some states impound or immobilize the vehicles of repeat intoxicated drivers. This can involve installing an ignition interlock system, or other device on their vehicles that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above a certain amount.
Programs that concentrate on an individual's alcohol-related behavior have also experienced success. For example, Milwaukee's Intensive Supervision Probation (MISP) program reduced recidivism by more than 50 percent. The MISP program includes a component of behavior monitoring. It seems that a variety of measures are needed to address this issue and that states are providing an array of sanctions to the problem of repeat offenders of impaired driving laws.
Revoking or suspending a driver's license is now a common penalty for violations related to impaired driving. Despite these penalties, many offenders continue to drive. Too many drivers with a suspended license receive additional traffic citations or become involved in crashes during the periods when their licenses are suspended. As a way to ameliorate this problem, many states have enacted legislation that directly affects the offender's vehicle or license plates as a penalty for the impaired driving offense and/or for driving with a suspended license.
Driver licensing sanctions have proven to help reduce the problem of impaired driving. Non-criminal licensing sanctions have resulted in reductions in alcohol-related fatalities of between 6 and 9 percent. According to a NHTSA study, the following states have seen significant reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes following their implementation of administrative license revocation procedures: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah.
According to the NHTSA, these kinds of sanctions actually do prevent many repeat DWI offenders from driving. Those repeat offenders who continue to drive without a license tend to drive more infrequently or at least more carefully.
The NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions states that a variety of vehicle sanctions programs have been used successfully. For example, California's vehicle impoundment program substantially reduced subsequent offenses, convictions, and crashes for repeat offenders in the program. These penalties work by either separating repeat DUI/DWI offenders from their vehicles or by requiring them to be sober when they drive.
Section 164 of 23 U.S.C. required states to enact certain laws regarding repeat intoxicated drivers. These were to be in place by October 1, 2000. States without these laws forfeited part of their Federal highway construction funds. These monies were redirected to the state's highway safety program to be used for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures, or for enforcement of anti-drunk driving laws. Alternatively, states could also elect to use the funds for its hazard elimination program.
To be in compliance with Section 164, a state's laws related to subsequent convictions for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol must require the following:
- Behavior Assessment: States must mandate assessment of repeat intoxicated drivers' degree of alcohol abuse and refer them to treatment when appropriate
- Driver's License Suspension: suspension must be for a minimum of one year
- Mandatory Minimum Sentence: These should be not less than five days of imprisonment or 30 days of community service for the second offense. For the third or subsequent offense, the sentence should not be less than 10 days of imprisonment or 60 days of community service.
- Vehicle Seizure: all vehicles of repeat intoxicated drivers must be impounded or immobilized for some period of time during the license suspension period
The statute defines a repeat intoxicated driver as a driver convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol more than once in any five-year period. This means that states need to maintain records on driving convictions for DWI/DUI for a minimum of five years. Additionally, states must certify that they are in compliance with all the provisions of the statute. The following states and the District of Columbia met the requirements of Section 164 by the end of 2000: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
"Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety" Available at http://www.saferoads.org/. Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, 2002.
"Buckle Up America." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002. Available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/airbags/buckleplan/.
2001 Car and Vehicle Safety Data: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Documents and Reports U.S. Government, Progressive Management, 2001.
The Car Book: The Definitive Buyer's Guide to Car Safety, Fuel Economy, Maintenance, and Much More. Gillis, Jack, Clarence M. Ditlow, Amy B. Curran, HarperPerennial, 1998.
Drive to Survive! Rich, Curt, Motorbooks International, 1999.
Human Factors in Traffic Safety. Olson, Paul L. and Robert E. Dewar, eds. Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, 2001.
"NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Administrative License Revocation." http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/stateleg/adminlicense.htm. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001.
"NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions." http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/stateleg/veh_lic_sanctions.htm. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001.
"Transportation and Vehicle Safety." Safetyforum.com, 2002. Available at http://www.safetyforum.com/transportation/.
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Sections within this essay:Background
Federal and Global Protections
The Travel Industry
Liability of Travel Agencies
Cruise Line Travel
Bus and Rail Tours and Packaged Tours
Special Considerations for International Travel
Select State Provisions for the Licensing and Regulation of Travel Agents or Sellers
Better Business Bureau
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Both domestic and international travelers are often exposed to unique risks and dangers not common to other activities or industries. In the course of travel, direct control over the safety and welfare of travelers is effectively transferred to others (often unknown third parties). In some instances, the law imposes "strict liability" upon these third parties, whereas in other circumstances, there must be fault on the part of the third party before a traveler may recover damages for injury or harm.
However, the issue of travel safety invokes more consideration than merely the identification of potentially liable parties. Of particular concern is the myriad of complex bodies of law that affect different aspects of travel safety, e.g., maritime law, aviation law, hotel law, consumer law, etc. This is further complicated in instances of international travel, which may invoke questions of jurisdiction and choice of law rules.
At the global level, one must consider the many provisions contained in international treaties and federal statutes which address issues of travel safety. Among them are the following:
- The Warsaw Convention (Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air Signed at Warsaw on 12 October 1929): Among other things, this body of law governs the legal rights of international travelers to sue airlines for physical injuries or death suffered on an airliner. The amended Warsaw Convention provides that airlines have strict liability (providing an automatic entitlement without proof of fault) up to $100,000 SDRs ("Special Drawing Rights," equivalent to approximately $135,000 U.S. dollars).
- The Athens Convention and The Hague Convention.
- The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 49 USC 40120, governs crashes occurring more than one marine league (approximately three miles) from land. The DOHSA limits recovery to pecuniary damages only.
- The Ford Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2000, PL 106-181, which, among other things, amends provisions of the above DOHSA to clarify that crashes within 12 nautical miles ("territorial waters") from U.S. shores will be adjudicated by domestic state and federal laws and not DOHSA.
- The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 USC 1330, governs the waiver of sovereign immunity for foreign governments whose airlines cause injuries in the United States.
Domestically, major issues of travel safety fall under the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the DOT's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and to a lesser degree, the National Transportation Safety Board (which is not affiliated with the DOT but is responsible for investigating air accidents), the Department of State, U.S. Customs, and the Department of Health's Center for Disease Control (CDC).
As part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, P.L. 107-71, the Bush Administration created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. These entities are concerned with traveler safety from a security perspective. They include initiatives such as airport passenger screening and color-coded homeland security alerts for travelers.
Congress has used the Commerce Clause as authority to enact other laws affecting travel safety. One such law is the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (49 CFR 382), which prohibits discrimination and requires physical accommodation of passengers with disabilities. Airlines may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling (with certain exceptions involving special equipment or hook-ups), and airlines are prohibited from restricting the number of disabled persons on a flight.
As a general rule, "common carriers," such as airlines, cruise line, bus and rail operators, are held to a higher standard of care owed to passengers and travelers. Common carriers cannot require or request patrons to sign contracts that purport to disclaim liability caused by the gross negligence or intentional misconduct of the common carrier or its agents/employees. Nor may common carriers attempt to enforce such a disclaimer even if it appears on a passenger ticket.
Several state courts have ruled that travel agents are agents of the consumer and not the travel service providers. According to these states (including Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia), travel agents are fiduciaries owing a high standard of care. This makes their obligations and duties to the consumer independent from their relationship with airlines, cruise lines, hotels or tour operators. In addition, it exposes them to potential liability for harm or injury to their customers caused by travel arrangements made by them.
Some of the legal theories under which travel agents or agencies have been sued (in addition to the travel supplier or tour operator actually providing the service or accommodation) include:
- Failure to Disclose Identity of Supplier: A travel agent must disclose the identity of a supplier or tour operator ultimately responsible for delivering the travel services. If the agent fails to make such a disclosure, the agent may be jointly liable for any harm or injury caused to the traveler by the supplier or tour operator.
- Vouching for the Reliability of Suppliers or Tour Operators: By doing so, the travel agent may be jointly responsible for harm or injury to the traveler under a variety of legal theories, including breach of warranty and negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation.
- Failure to Disclose Health and Safety Hazard Information: While the travel agent generally has no duty to investigate ultimate service providers for compliance with safety and health laws, the agent may be jointly liable in circumstances where the agent knew or should have reasonably known of specific risks and did not communicate them to the traveler. Some jurisdictions have found travel agents liable for failure to investigate crime levels in destination areas or advise of epidemics or needed shots/vaccines, or advise of need for travel insurance.
Although air disasters are quite rare, they are of such magnitude and consequence that applicable laws and regulations should be addressed.
Under its International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA), the FAA, as part of its responsibility to inform the public about safety issues, assesses the civil aviation authority of each country with service to the United States. The assessments are to determine whether or not the civil aviation authority (CAA) overseeing airline operations to and from the United States meets the safety standards set by the United Nations body known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The FAA has established two ratings for the status of these civil aviation authorities at the time of the assessment: compliance with ICAO standards, noncompliance with ICAO standards. CAAs are the FAA's foreign counterparts. The IASCA assessment program began in 1992.
The FAA also conducts domestic Flight Operational Quality Assurance Programs (FOQA) through the use of in-flight recorders. The data logged by the recorders is used to evaluate in-flight operations, including standard operating procedures (SOPs), flight training, and cockpit workload. In the event of an accident, the FOQA program assists in interpreting the events leading up to the accident in order to determine causation.
In the unfortunate event of a domestic air accident, the NTSB is called in to investigate. Based upon its findings, injured persons or victims' survivors may have causes of action based on several legal theories including products liability against the aircraft manufacturers; negligent maintenance and repair; negligence of pilot and crew; negligence of ground support/air traffic control departments; negligent maintenance of airport runways or facilities, etc.
The Warsaw Convention applies to airlines passengers ticketed on an international itinerary, whether or not the accident occurs on the domestic part of a continuous international trip. In El AL Israel Airlines, Ltd. v. Tsui Yuan Tseng, 97-475 (1999), the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the Warsaw Convention's "exclusive" control over a passenger's right of recovery in U.S. courts for "physical injuries" sustained on international flights.
This created an inequity among passengers on the same flight, as those who were ticketed for a shorter (domestic) leg of the international trip (i.e., traveling between two U.S. cities on an international itinerary that continued beyond the second city) did not fall under the purvey of the Warsaw Convention. Until 1997, the maximum allowable recovery for damages against the airlines subject to the 70-year-old Warsaw Convention provisions was $75,000 (excepting actions grounded in "willful misconduct"). Families of domestic passengers on the same flight, conversely, could recover millions of dollars.
In 1997, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) joined with the U.S. DOT to sponsor an international agreement which removes the $75,000 limit of liability and permits passengers to recover full compensatory damages according to the laws of their place of permanent residence (domicile). More than 120 airlines have signed the agreement.
An area of more limited and restrictive legal rights is that of cruise line travel. In addition to accidents or injuries occurring on the vessels themselves, passengers may also be injured while being transported from ship to shore (embarking or disembarking), shopping in a port of call, on local excursion trips, or at a hotel owned by the cruise line. (The U.S. Supreme Court held, in Kenward v. The Admiral Peoples, 295 U.S. 649, (1935) that admiralty jurisdiction applied to an injury sustained on a gangplank leading to a ship.)
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12181 et seq., which prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of "public accommodation," and in "specific public transportation services," is applicable to foreign-flag ships temporarily in U.S. waters, i.e., departing from, and returning to, U.S. ports. Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., No. 03-1388, (2005). This requires such entities to make reasonable modifications and accommodations for disabled persons, as well as to remove architectural barriers and communication barriers that are structural in nature.
Admiralty (maritime) law (46 USC 183b) permits very short statutes of limitations for filing claims or lawsuits. For injuries occurring while on board cruise vessels that touch U.S. shores, passengers are generally required to file claims within six months and commence a lawsuit within one year, but case law suggests that the limitations must be "reasonably communicated" to passengers.
The passenger ticket is a very important document in the event of injury. It must disclose any limitations periods for filing suits or claims. Again, maritime law governs the rights and remedies of cruise passengers and preempts any state laws requiring "fine print" on consumer contracts to be printed in a certain print type or size.
The passenger ticket may also contain a "forum selection" clause. Such clauses generally provide that any disputes, claims, or lawsuits must be brought in the local court ("forum") in the country of the ship's registry or where the cruise line is headquartered. Again, these clauses are generally enforceable if notice to passengers is deemed adequate and fair. Forum selection clauses may be subject to judicial review for fundamental fairness or reasonableness.
Passenger tickets may also contain "choice of law" clauses, which are extremely important to a passenger's right to recover damages for injury or death. In such clauses, a statement of notice is made to the passenger that all disputes or claims will be resolved according to the laws of a certain country, state, or principality, etc. Choice of law clauses are generally enforceable but can be subjected to judicial review for patent unreasonableness or unjustness (such as fraudulent misrepresentation or overreaching). The application of foreign law may greatly impact the monetary damages or types of actions available to an injured traveler.
Waivers or limitations on liability may be contained in passenger tickets. Under maritime law (46 USC 183c), cruise vessels touching U.S. shores may not disclaim liability for physical injury or loss caused or contributed to by the vessel's negligence. However, in 1996, Congress enacted a provision (46 USC 183(b)(1)) permitting limitations on liability for infliction of emotional distress, mental suffering, or psychological injury.
Finally, if passengers are injured or need medical treatment while on board, cruise lines are generally not liable for medical malpractice of a ship's doctors or medical staff. Some courts have found liability when medical staff are touted or advertised by the cruise lines as an added benefit or advantage during the cruise.
Generally speaking, the same rights and protections afforded passengers of other common carriers are extended to bus and rail travelers, as bus and rail systems are also considered "common carriers." Often, bus and rail tours are integral parts of total "package tours" arranged by a single tour operator or sponsor. U.S. based tour operators may not disclaim liability for injuries caused by their own negligence or the negligence of their agents or employees, but they may disclaim liability for injuries caused by a foreign supplier. Such disclaimers may be overcome by the application of certain theories of liability such as the following:
- Breach of warranty of safety: This may occur if the bus or rail tour operator promises that a particular travel service will be rendered in a safe manner, such as statements that recreational areas are "perfectly safe," or that buildings are "suitable for disabled persons."
- Negligent supervision: this theory applies for escorted tours handled by "qualified" or "trained" (etc.) tour directors or guides. When injuries occur as the result of the negligence of the guide, bus and rail tour companies may be held liable for negligent supervision, negligent hiring or selection, etc.
- Assumed ownership or control: this theory may apply in a minority of jurisdictions that hold tour operators liable for negligent travel services if they incorporate possessive language such as "our" or "we" when describing the availability or quality of travel services.
- Negligent or unreasonable exposure to risk: a minority of jurisdictions permit causes of action premised on a tour operator's failure to design or prepare an itinerary with safety risks considered, such as disease epidemics, political unrest, or inclement weather (for which the tour should be canceled or delayed).
- Motor vehicle accidents involving fault of a bus tour driver almost always results in liability on the part of the tour operators or providers.
- The FAA has limited air travelers to one carry-on bag and one personal item. All other luggage must be checked in. New Transportation Security Administration (TSA, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security) airport security procedures require all passengers (domestic and international) to remove outer coats and jackets for X-ray before proceeding through the metal detectors. Included are suit and sport coats, athletic warm-up jackets and blazers.
- A government-issued photo identification (federal, state, or local) is generally required for passenger check-ins (domestic and international). The regulation under which the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) instructs the airlines to collect such identification is classified as "Sensitive Security Information.".
- Travelers should check their passenger tickets for such items as waivers of liability, time limits for filing claims, choice of law clauses, jurisdiction limits, etc., prior to implicitly accepting the terms by boarding the airplane, cruise ship, bus, or train.
- The State Department's Consular Information Sheets are available for every country in the world. They include information regarding unusual entry or currency regulations, drug penalties, unusual health conditions or high crime areas, political disturbances and areas of instability, etc. They are available at the 13 regional passport agencies, all U.S. embassies, and consulates abroad, and by electronic or first class mail (see below).
- Travelers are subject to the laws and customs of the countries they are in. Some of the offenses that U.S. travelers have been arrested abroad for include: drug violations; possession of firearms; photography of certain buildings, locations, or operations; and purchasing relics or antiques that were considered national treasures by host countries.
- Registration with the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate makes things easier in the event of a natural disaster, civil unrest, or terrorist attack. At a minimum, travelers should locate and be aware of the location of these entities wherever they travel.
Under the laws of those states with express laws, travel sellers generally include tour operators and consolidators, travel agents, pseudo travel agents, time share salespersons, telemarketing representatives, Internet web sites, and travel discount clubs.
CALIFORNIA: See California Business and Professional Code Section 17554.
FLORIDA: See Florida Statutes Annotated, Sections 559.927(10) and (11).
HAWAII: See Hawaii Revised Laws, Section 486L.
ILLINOIS: See Illinois Annotated Statutes, Chapter 121 1/2, Section 1857.
IOWA: See Iowa Statute 120.4.
MASSACHUSETTS: See Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 93A.
NEW YORK CITY: See General Business Law Sections 157 and 158.
OHIO: See Ohio Revised Code Annotated, Section 1333.99.
OREGON: See Oregon Revised Statute Section 642.218.
RHODE ISLAND: See Rhode Island Revised Laws Annotated, Section 5-52-12.
VIRGINIA: See Virginia Statutes, Section 59.1-448 et seq.
WASHINGTON: See Washington Revised Code Sections 19.138 et seq.
"Death on the High Seas Act" Available at http://www.condonlaw.com/march2000.htm.
Guide to Consumer Law American Bar Association. Random House: 1997.
Law for Dummies. Ventura, John. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. 1996.
"Recent Developments in Airline Disaster Law" Available at http://www.avweb.com/articles/disaslaw/.
"The Cruise Passenger's Rights & Remedies" Dickerson, Thomas A., 2000. Available at http://courts.state.ny.us/tandv/cruiserights.html.
"The Legal Status of Travel Agents" Dickerson, Thomas A., 2000. Available at http://courts.state.ny.us/tandv/travelagent.html.
"The Licensing and Regulation of Travel Sellers in the United States" Dickerson, Thomas A., 2000. Available at http://courts.state.ny.us/tandv/Aqtaed1.htm.
"Tips for Travelers in a Time of War." Jackson, Kristin, The Seattle Times, October 22, 2001.
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Safety consists of "attempts to minimize the risk of injury, illness, or property damage from the hazards to which one may be exposed" (Edlin et al. 1999, p. 522). Safety for one's home, one's community, and oneself is best achieved through a joint effort involving individuals, schools, law enforcement, and other private and public agencies.
Home safety can be improved by exterior lighting around doors and windows, secure locks that are consistently used, block watch programs, and informing neighbors of unusual individuals or events. Internal home safety is optimized by lighting on stairways, lack of clutter, and consistent maintenance of home and contents.
The National Crime Prevention Council has identified several strategies to improve community safety. Community mobilization is the process of bringing individuals together so that they can jointly guard property, report suspicious behavior to the police, combat criminality, and form a spirit of community. Examples of communitymobilization efforts include neighborhood watch groups, mobilizing senior citizens as volunteers, business watch groups, and early warning arson prevention. These efforts are a cost-effective way to combat crime and reduce fear.
Violence prevention at the local level recognizes the need to punish violent offenders, support victims, and teach nonviolence. Strategies can include teaching conflict management, public dialogue, and dispute resolution; combating teen dating violence; court-based programs for victims of domestic violence; mentoring; and parent education.
Communities should also make efforts to assure safe public places. Thriving communities need parks, downtown shopping areas, business districts, schools, and public-housing communities where residents can feel protected from the threat of crime and violence. There are several ways to create such places through joint efforts with government agencies, businesses, law enforcement, and citizens' groups. Poverty, discrimination, lack of education, and lack of employment opportunities are important risk factors for violence and must be addressed as part of any comprehensive solution to the epidemic of violence in urban communities. Strategies for reducing violence should reach children early in life, before violent beliefs and behavioral patterns can be adopted.
A new concern for parents and teachers is the concept of cybersafety. The Internet has many sites devoted to pornography, hate literature and excessive violence, and parents and teachers need to monitor the web sites that children visit. The best defense for children is for adults to educate them about issues that can cause them harm. Parents and teachers should carefully select an online service that offers control features to block out different types of sites, and children should be taught to not give out personal information, to never agree to meet anyone without their parent's consent, and to never send a photo of themselves over the Internet to someone they do not know.
The reduction of intentional (deliberate) and nonintentional (accidental) injuries is the concern of both individuals and communities. Such injuries include nonfatal head injuries, nonfatal spinal cord injuries, firearm-related injuries and deaths, motor vehicle-related injuries, poisonings, and deaths from suffocation. Prevention strategies for unintentional injuries include the use of safety belts, child restraints, motorcycle and bicycle helmets, graduated driver licensing, and functioning smoke alarms in residences.
Understanding the factors that cause injuries allows for development and implementation of effective prevention interventions to improve safety. Some interventions can reduce injuries from both unintentional and violence-related causes. For instance, efforts to promote proper storage of firearms in homes can help reduce the risk of unintentional shootings in the home. Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages are associated with lower death rates from motor vehicle crashes and lower rates for some categories of violent crime, including rape.
Women face special threats to their safety. Date rape (acquaintance rape) occurs when a date, boyfriend, or someone that a woman knows forces sexual relations. Women can help protect their safety while dating by openly discussing sexual expectations. Women also need to be very careful not to become intoxicated or be under the influence of any substance that will lessen their ability to make rational decisions while on a date.
Although recent tragedies and mass murders at schools have led to the conclusion that schools are becoming less safe, it is important to remember that 90 percent of the schools in the United States are free of violent crimes and serious safety issues (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). In recent years there has been a decrease in criminality and the number of children carrying weapons to school. Some of the reasons for this change are due in part to increases in school security measures, zero-tolerance policies, and the implementation of school violence prevention programs (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). Children are more likely to be the victim of a crime or seriously harmed in their own home or in the community than at school. Despite these facts, children are more fearful of school today than what has historically been reported.
To continue the decrease in school criminality and hopefully lessen the incidents of school shootings/mass murders, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (1998) recommend the following for schools to do the following:
- Provide strong administrative support for assessing and enhancing school safety.
- Redesign the school facility to eliminate dark, secluded, and unsupervised spaces.
- Devise a system for reporting and analyzing violent and noncriminal incidents.
- Design an effective discipline policy.
- Build a partnership with local law enforcement.
- Enlist school security professionals in designing and maintaining the school security system.
- Train school staff in all aspects of violence prevention.
- Provide all students access to school psychologists or counselors.
- Provide crisis response services.
- Implement school-wide education and training on avoiding and preventing violence.
- Use alternative school settings for educating violent and weapon-carrying students.
- Create a climate of tolerance (address racism and discrimination).
- Provide appropriate education services to all students.
- Reach out to communities and businesses to improve the safety of students.
- Actively involve students in making decisions about school policies and programs.
- Prepare an annual report on school crime and safety.
Some specific measures that a school can initiate quickly are the following: "hiring security personnel, installing security devices, conducting random inspections, and providing students/staff with identification cards" (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice 1998, p. 25). With these continued efforts, schools can continue to be a safe place for America's youth.
Tammy A. King
(see also: Behavioral Change; Community Organization; Crime; Domestic Violence; Family Health; Legislation and Regulation; Occupational Safety and Health; Street Violence; United States Consumer Product Safety Commission; Violence )
Eldin, G.; Golanty, E.; and Brown, K. M. (1999). Health and Wellness, 6th edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
National Crime Prevention Council (2000). Cybersafety for Kids Online: A Parent's Guide. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. NCPC information is available at http://www.ncpc.org.
—— (2000). Date Rape Is a Power Trip. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
—— (2000). Invest in Home Security. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (1998). Annual Report on School Safety. (Pamphlet released by Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education and Janet Reno, Attorney General.)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000). Health People 2010. Available at http://web.health.gov/healthypeople/.
safe·ty / ˈsāftē/ • n. (pl. -ties) 1. the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury: they should leave for their own safety. ∎ inf. a condom.2. Football a defensive back who normally is positioned well behind the line of scrimmage. ∎ a play in which the offense downs the ball (by action of the defense, or intentionally) in their own end zone, scoring two points for the defense.
A safe system is one that will never do anything bad. The definition of what is “bad” is application-dependent: the safety requirements for a system controlling an aircraft would obviously be more stringent than those for, say, a stock control system. Compare liveness.
there is safety in numbers proverbial saying, late 17th century; perhaps ultimately with biblical allusion to Proverbs 11:14, ‘In the multitude of counsellors there is safety’, but now with the implication that a number of people will be unscathed where an individual might be in danger.