Don’t let accidents happen

Gillian Cooper
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The holidays are just around the corner - time, at last, to enjoy some quality time with the children. But whether you're staying at home, visiting relatives or jetting off for some winter sun, making sure your children stay safe this season is just as important as guaranteeing them a great Christmas.
Of course, accidents can, and do, happen. In fact, new statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) show just how frequently - and devastatingly - they occur among children and young people. In 2015 alone, more than 400 youngsters lost their lives this way in the UK, putting accidents ahead of any other cause of death, including cancer and congenital conditions.
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Despite this, surprisingly few parents have sought or been given advice about reducing the likelihood of an accident happening. And that's the thing about accidents - most are preventable. Bad luck, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, even fate - they've all been used to explain accidents away in the past. They're reassuring excuses, undoubtedly, but they don't paint a realistic picture.

Put simply, accidents don't have to happen. RoSPA has plenty of advice on how they can be easily avoided on its site (www.rospa.com), as well as a dedicated free-phone helpline so parents and carers have someone to talk to if they need further accident prevention help: 0808 801 0822.

In the meantime, here are our top tips for keeping children safe, whatever the season:

1) Keep an eye on them

It sounds obvious, but how many times in the last week alone have we been guilty of giving too much attention to a funny video a work colleague's posted on Facebook, for example, rather than watching the children play together in the park? Naturally, no one's got eyes in the back of their head, and we can't closely supervise children at every moment of the day, but distractions like mobile phones, tablets and the TV make it dangerously easy to tune out at the most inopportune times.

2) Make sure they've got their eyes peeled too!

Those gadgets we were just talking about? Turns out children quite like them too. Make sure they use them responsibly - not, for instance, by busy roads or the top of the stairs. Losing track of what's going on around them can be a recipe for disaster.

3) Get kitted out with the latest devices

No, we’re not talking about owning the latest novelty gadgets. Help keep your family safe by installing basic safety devices like a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and a smoke & CO alarm. Don’t forget to test and maintain them as well!

4) School run rules

Ferrying your children between the front door and the school gates might seem well-rehearsed by now, but unexpected stresses like traffic, running late or a sibling argument on the back seat can sometimes throw up nasty surprises. Always make sure children are installed in the car safely, with a belt or seat that's appropriate to their height and weight. If in doubt, pop into a reputable shop for advice. Even a relatively small crash can have serious repercussions if a child isn't safely seated.

Outside of the car is no less risky. Too many accidents happen on our own driveways when a parent is distracted or simply doesn't spot a child playing close to their vehicle. Be doubly careful when reversing or parking on a slope. If the the latter, always leave the car in gear to stop it rolling and potentially crushing a child.

5) Alarm bells

Finally, if you're heading off on holiday this winter do the family a favour by packing one extra item between the passports and plimsolls. Carbon monoxide - the so-called 'silent killer' because you can't hear, see, smell or taste it - claims countless young lives every year. A dodgy boiler in your rental apartment could be all it takes. Take a small, portable CO alarm in with you though and not only will you benefit from peace of mind, you may even prevent an accident.