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Children Face Increased Injury Risks In Rural Areas

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Safe Kids Kansas makes rural injury prevention a top priority during National Farm Safety & Health Week, which runs from Sept. 20 to 26, 2009. In Kansas, approximately 158,598 children live in rural areas and these kids are at greater risk of unintentional injury-related death than children living in urban areas.

The environment on a farm allows a child to be exposed to an array of hazards. Each year in the U.S. approximately 70 children ages 14 and under die from injuries occurring on a farm. Children ages 6 to 12 are more likely to sustain injuries from farm equipment due to attempting farm tasks that are not age-appropriate while tractors, large animals, and falls are the primary cause for injuries on the farm for children ages 6 and under.

“Kids need to be supervised while doing farm work,” says Cherie Sage, State Director for Safe Kids Kansas. “Kids should not try to do the work of an adult. It takes physical strength and development, as well as mature judgment, to operate mechanical farm equipment safely.”

Safe Kids Kansas recommends that children under 16 never drive or ride ATVs (including youth-sized ATVs), snowmobiles or tractors. Mowers, tractors and minibikes that are built to only hold one person and should never carry additional passengers of any age.

No matter how shallow, children should also be supervised near irrigation ditches, ponds and other bodies of water. “A small child can drown in just a few inches of water,” says Sage. “In reality, drowning doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. A drowning child usually cannot cry or call for help—it happens quickly and silently.”

Motor vehicle traffic incidents are the number one cause of injury fatality for children ages 1 to 14. Almost half of all fatal crashes occur in rural areas. “Never, ever let a child ride in the bed of a pickup truck,” says Sage. “In a crash, the child would almost certainly be ejected and killed or suffer a permanent, life-changing injury.” Kansas also prohibits children under age 14 from riding in any part of the vehicle not intended for passengers, including in the bed of a pickup truck.

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Safe Kids Kansas recommends parents keep these safety tips in mind:

* Make safe play areas on the farm, physically separated from animals, farm equipment and bodies of water.

* Make sure children wear personal flotation devices while in or near water.

* Ensure that space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are vented properly and inspected annually. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test alarms once a month and change the batteries twice a year.

* Homes with fuel-burning heat sources should also be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors — a buildup of this odorless, invisible gas can be deadly. Install CO detectors in every sleeping area and on all levels of your home. Test the alarms every month.

* Kids should always wear equestrian helmets that meet safety standards when riding a horse or pony. Don’t let kids ride without supervision, and select horses with child-friendly temperaments.

* If it is necessary to walk along rural roads not marked for pedestrians, teach kids to walk on the shoulder of the road facing oncoming traffic (the left side) and to walk in a single file wearing retroreflective decals.