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DHS news release

May 2, 2007

Media contact: Tom Towslee, 971-673-0396, 503-559-0652
Program contact: Adrienne Greene, 971-673-1001

Kids and safety: summer is a dangerous time for too many Oregon youngsters

Oregon ranks in the bottom third of states in keeping kids safe from summer-related injuries such as drowning, falls, motor vehicle passenger accidents and bicycle and pedestrian injuries, according to a first-ever report released today by Safe Kids USA.

Oregon was 35th in rankings that are based on each state's accidental injury death rates between May and the end of August, and how much the rates increased or decreased over the last five years. See the complete Safe Kids Summer Safety Ranking Report, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, on the Safe Kids Web site.

"Clearly, we have work to do," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist. "The value of this report is not so much the comparison among states, but the attention it brings to the fact that summer is a deadly season for children."

The top five causes of accidental injury deaths among children ages 0-14 are:

  • Drowning deaths (79 percent increase in summer months)
  • Motor vehicle passenger deaths (21 percent increase in summer months)
  • Fall-related deaths (33 percent increase in summer months)
  • Bicycle deaths (81percent increase in summer months)
  • Pedestrian deaths (79 percent increase in summer months)

At a Portland news conference today, health officials focused on drowning as the leading summer safety issue and asked that people add the words "cold shock" to their vocabularies.

"People are not aware of just how cold Oregon's waters are, even when the outside temperatures are very warm," Kohn said. "Too many drowning deaths occur when overheated individuals jump into extremely cold waters. Their bodies cannot take the shock, and eventually hyperthermia occurs."

Kohn said another water safety issue is that people don't think Oregon has an issue with kids and backyard swimming pools. "Nearly a third of all summer child drowning fatalities are in pools," he said. "We need to do a better job of creating barriers to pools and of absolutely actively watching kids in and around water."

In addition, Kohn emphasized the need for all adults to know how to rescue a swimmer who is in trouble. "Too often, people will leap into the water to attempt a rescue and end up losing their own life," he said. "Better by far to carry a rope and throw it into the water and pull the swimmer to safety."

Safe Kids recommends three steps to reducing summertime injuries:

  • Actively supervise children in and around water, especially while vacationing, and encourage lifejacket use when swimming and rafting in rivers and lakes;
  • Educate adults and children about the right precautions to take, such as proper installation of a car booster seat and the correct fit of a bike helmet;
  • Enforce existing child safety laws, such as four-sided fencing for pools and locked covers for spas and hot tubs.

"Oregon has taken some solid steps, but challenges remain," Kohn said. "For instance, only 54 percent of children who should be wearing bike helmets do so." Parents and children can learn about summertime safety at 13 Safe Kids Coalition activities scheduled this week during National Safe Kids Week.

Safe Kids USA has sponsored National Safe Kids Week for the past 14 years. Oregon's Safe Kids Coalition, a public-private organization, is housed in the Department of Human Services Public Health Division. There are 15 local coalitions that work on children's safety awareness in their communities.

Information about Oregon Safe Kids is on the DHS Safe Kids Web site.


Safe Kids USA is part of a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 and under. More than 450 coalitions in 16 countries bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families.

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