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Lesson to Labor Day revelers: Stay safe out there

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 1, 2023

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Whether you'll be out driving, swimming, playing sports or engaging in other recreational activities this Labor Day, take steps to stay safe.

Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year. It's also one of the most dangerous, according to health experts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Labor Day as the end of the 100 deadliest days of summer. During those 100 days -- from Memorial Day to Labor Day -- the number of fatal car crashes nearly doubles. In addition, the National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 traffic-related fatalities and 42,300 medical visits during the Labor Day weekend across the country. Utah usually reports around three auto-related deaths.

Dr. Jeffrey Walker, a traumatologist and trauma surgeon at Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, said the three-day weekend is typically packed with people swimming, grilling, biking, boating, hiking and participating in off-road activities. During a press conference Friday, he talked about seven safety reminders to help you stay safe and out of the hospital.

"Drivers need to make sure they are well rested, not distracted, divide driving duties and watch for motorcyclists," he said. "Wearing a seat belt is proven to save lives. In fact, 3 out of 4 people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries. No one wants to become a statistic. You can keep you and your loved ones safe by buckling up."

Walker also said to stay with others and not venture out alone.

"Go with a group of people and know everyone's level of ability, including your own," Walker said about enjoying outdoor activities. "Falls leading to broken bones and lacerations are some of the most common accidents hikers face when they overextend themselves, which may land them in our emergency department."

Walker said always check the weather before leaving so you can bring appropriate clothing and other items. Also, let your loved ones know where you'll be and how long you'll be expected to be gone. Pack a first-aid kit and plenty of water as well.

Wearing safety gear is also important, Walker said. A child's risk of being hospitalized from riding an off-highway vehicle is 1,000 times greater than riding in a car. Between 1999 and 2011, 22 youngsters died in all-terrain vehicle-related accidents.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more than 3.5 million U.S. children ages 14 and under are treated for injuries due to rollerblading, bicycling, skateboarding and other sports-related injuries each year. A proper-fitting helmet should be placed on every child while participating in these activities. The administration also recommends bright-colored clothing and lights and reflectors on bikes if riding at dusk. Safety goggles and helmets with face guards should also be used while riding an ATV.

Dr. Bryce Desmond, a dermatologist at Intermountain Health, said not to forget the sunscreen.

"People don't realize that even though you may heal from a sunburn and be fine a week later, it can lead to melanoma and other skin cancers years later," he said. "That's why it's vital to make protective measures a part of your routine."

Desmond said sunscreen isn't just for swimming and hiking. It's for anytime you're outside.

Walker also stressed the importance of staying hydrated.

"If you're thirsty at all, it's time to start drinking," Walker said. "If you'll be out working or exercising for more than two hours, you'll also need some electrolytes, either from a liquid that contains electrolytes, such as Gatorade, or from salty snacks."

Last on the safety list is being responsible around water. Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital reports drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children ages 15 and under. The hospital lists several water safety tips such as making sure your child wears a life jacket near the water, never taking your eyes off of your children in the water, appointing someone to be the "water watcher" at all times, keeping a phone nearby in case of an emergency and teaching your child to swim -- although still supervising them after they learn to swim.

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