The unfortunate and tragic events in American schools in recent years have been cause for concern to parents, teachers and students themselves. And while shootings have grabbed most of the headlines, there are other dangers that can befall our most vulnerable generation before graduation. But that’s not to say we are helpless. There are many steps parents can take to improve the odds that an attack, an accident or an illness will not happen. In Chicago, the obvious concerns are the problems of guns, gangs and bullying. No lawyer, judge or politician can unilaterally end these scourges to our educational system and our students. Just as important are strategies that parents, educators and school administrators can follow to make things safer. Here are a few: Develop incident reporting systems as well as a transparent means of reporting cumulative data for public consumption. This first step is to develop a solid understanding of the problem. Insist that districts and individual schools have crisis plans and drills. Provide literature, training and support to teachers on issues such as drugs, weapons, youth suicide, child abuse and school law. Observe and promote Safe Schools Week, which is in October. This provides a way to engage everyone in why it matters and the commitment of the school to provide a safe environment throughout the year. Other, unintentional safety issues exist in the school experience as well. On playgrounds, more than 200,000 children under age 14 are injured and require emergency treatment every year in the U.S. Preventive measures include ensuring that equipment is well maintained and that ground surfaces are soft. School staff, including and especially nurses, should be particularly attuned to symptoms of concussion. The journey to school also needs to be safe. A trend toward driving children in cars to their school may be an overzealous response and is attributed by some as a contributor to childhood obesity. If at all possible, parents can escort their children by bike or on foot and when the child is ready, allow them to walk alone if neighborhood conditions allow. Chicago’s Safe Passage program has largely been hailed a success (where it is available); Walking School Bus programs, led by a parent volunteer, are successful in many municipalities. In almost all instances, parental involvement is a fundamental component of ensuring safer schools. Attorneys might be able to lend assistance if laws are being broken, but a[READ MORE…]
Once upon a time, Volvo took a risk and advertised its safety features. The campaign was derided at the time, when style, speed and price were the priority concerns to car shoppers. But over time the marketing strategy has worked and that is now a predominant identification with the Swedish carmaker’s brand. The company introduced three-point seat belts in 1958, decades before they were required of U.S. automakers. Volvo was also the first to make airbags a standard feature. Eventually, American consumers caught on and realized that the death rate on the highways – not to mention the even greater numbers of people living with permanent, life-changing injuries and disabilities as a result of auto accidents – called for safer vehicles. Another factor was the popularity of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). Despite their tank-like appearance, earlier models were found to be vulnerable to rollovers, particularly when taking corners too quickly. In a recent year, 2011, more than 60 people died and 2,700 suffered serious injuries in overturned vehicle accidents in Illinois. But the essential problem, too high a center of gravity, has been corrected in newer vehicles. The power of lawsuits and attorneys can produce positive change where it comes to vehicle design. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires the following in all new cars: airbags and passive restraint systems; inside trunk handles; tire-pressure monitors; and electronic stability control (ESC), which automatically brakes wheels that are slipping. What are not mandated are side airbags and anti-lock brakes, even though both are considered very good ways to minimize injuries from car accidents. Other features that aren’t mandated by the NHTSA are: Head restraints, back seat – While mandated in front, they are not required in the back seats of vehicles. Anyone who typically hauls passengers – hello soccer moms? – should consider this to be important. Traction control – This system adjust engine power output, primarily with four-wheel antilock brake systems, such that stability is improved when the driver applies excess power. Car weight – The basic physics of vehicles in collisions gives the advantage to larger, heavier vehicles. This means, for better or worse, that SUVs and semi-tractor trailers will always dominate subcompact vehicles. The five-star rating system on vehicle performance in crash test safety, developed by the NHTSA, is called into doubt because the tests do not account for vehicle weight. The ultimate safety device is the human[READ MORE…]
Different people have varying priorities when looking for a new place to live and, more specifically, for a new home to buy. For some, it’s about the kitchen, including the newness and functionality of the appliances, countertops, cabinetry and storage. Other people need a specific number of bathrooms and bedrooms, an informal family room, a large-enough garage or an outdoor space that accommodates recreation and entertaining. People with school age children will almost always prioritize living in the district of a desirable school. But aside from features and amenities, new home shoppers should also consider the quality of the neighborhood. That should include immediately adjacent properties, as well as what’s nearby, such as a business that might produce a large volume of traffic. Some businesses, such as nightclubs, can cause noise problems for neighbors. Other factors to consider: Odor nuisances and dangers –Odors, such as those emanating from the exhaust fans of a nearby commercial establishment, might be a nuisance but not necessarily dangerous to human health. Smells from manufacturing facilities, farms and sewage treatment plants may be injurious to health and likely will depress property values. If there is or was a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory on or near the property in the past, there is a good chance toxic waste exists nearby. Sexual offenders in the vicinity – The Illinois State Police maintain the Illinois Sex Offender Information map, which can provide the names and addresses of sexual predators within five miles. Attorneys are sometimes successful at having old sex offense records expunged, but that is only after years without subsequent offenses. Environmental hazards – In most residential areas, the concerns about toxic substances in the neighborhood have to do with operating or shuttered dry cleaners, gas stations and auto shops, however landfills and superfund sites might also be in the vicinity. A home inspector is not required to know how to identify hazards off the property, however some are equipped to do so. Real estate brokers are not qualified to make this assessment but it helps to heed their warnings and seek an independent assessment by qualified technicians. Crime – A quick online search can find various crime statistic reporting sites, searchable by zip code and address, in Chicago and elsewhere. Traffic – While traffic and highway engineers can design roads for safety according to latest technologies, some neighborhoods still have higher rates of accidents. If you or[READ MORE…]
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