Connecticut Children’s Advocates: Safe Driving Instruction Courses

Below is the testimony of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to the Transportation Committee regarding HB 5680, An Act Concerning Parent Attendance at Safe Driving Instruction Courses.

Man holding car keys

My name is Kevin Borrup, Associate Director, Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. I am an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. I am submitting this testimony in opposition to the proposed bill which would allow some parents of prospective teen drivers to skip the mandatory two-hour parent/teen safe driving class.

Before commenting on the bill, I want to provide you with some background about Connecticut’s only hospital dedicated exclusively to children. Connecticut Children’s is a nationally recognized, 187-bed not-for-profit children’s hospital serving as the primary pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, as well as a research partner of The Jackson Laboratory.

Families across the region rely on our ability to deliver the highest level of care. When another hospital is unable to provide what a child requires, we are ready to help. Last year, 3,906 patients required a transfer to Connecticut Children’s from another hospital in order to obtain the high level of specialized pediatric care they needed.

Through our Office for Community Child Health, Connecticut Children’s ensures that families have access to a comprehensive system of community programs and services that supports them in promoting their children’s optimal healthy development. Our programs tackle critical contemporary issues in children’s day to day lives that can adversely affect their health and development including asthma, home hazards, domestic violence, teen driving safety, teen suicide prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases. Visit our Advancing Kids blog at https://advancingkids.org/.

The mission of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s is to reduce injury and violence among Connecticut residents. To accomplish this mission, we implement four core activities: research, education and training, community outreach programs, and policy/advocacy. Teen driving safety has been a long held priority for our center.

Connecticut has made great strides in reducing teen motor vehicle injuries and deaths through public policy decisions that have served to reduce the risk for teens. The last major upgrade to Connecticut’s graduated driver licensing law was in 2008 when the mandatory two-hour parent class came into effect.

Our hospital, the driver training schools, and advocacy groups all support keeping those 2008 upgrades to the law intact. This bill would serve to weaken a very important aspect of the law which ensures that teens and parents are aware of the laws and their responsibilities. When parents have the “driving” talk and stay active in their child’s driver training, and post-licensing driving, teens are safer. Should this bill move forward, we are endorsing a view that the safety of a child is less important than ensuring that parents do not experience an inconvenience.

And, what do parents say about this class? Parents agree that attending this class is worthwhile with 85% agreeing that the course was excellent or good, and 90% agreeing that the class helped them as a coach of their teen.*

This bill is only about the convenience, or inconvenience, that is prioritized by some parents over safety. My response: let’s put safety first and make sure that every teen who goes through this process has the attention of their parent. It matters. Thank you for your consideration of our position.

* from a study by Neil Chaudhary of Preusser Research Group in 2010 and a study of driving schools conducted by Kevin Borrup of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in 2014.

Top 6 Holiday Hazards

By Kevin Borrup, JD, MPA, Associate Director, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center

Twinkle, twinkle little star...Most injuries are predictable and preventable and we want you and your family to stay safe, happy and injury free this holiday season. Take precautions to ensure that your holiday plans are not interrupted by a visit to the emergency room. We have assembled some quick tips for what you can do to prevent injuries to you, your children, and family and friends this holiday season.

Motor Vehicle Crashes
Last December drunk driving crashes resulted in 840 deaths across the nation. Buckle up and make sure all your passengers are appropriately restrained.

• Do not drink and drive, and do not let friends drive impaired.
• Remind all your guests to designate their sober driver.
• The safest place for children is in the back seat.
• Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in a crash by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers aged 1 to 4.

Christmas Tree Fires
Christmas Trees are a big part of the holiday season for many families. Unfortunately, they are also the source for approximately 250 home fires each year. So, take precautions to keep your family safe.

• If you have a natural tree, keep it watered, and never leave lights on when you are: not home, not in the room, or sleeping. If you have an artificial tree, use the same precautions by turning the lights off before you go to bed and when you are not home.
• Place your tree away from any heat source, including away from fireplaces.
• Use the newer LED lights – they do not get as hot as traditional incandescent lights.
• Inspect your old lights for fraying cords and replace them as needed.
• Avoid using real candles.
• Practice your fire escape plan with your family.

Falls
5,800 individuals are treated each year for falls involving holiday decorations. Another 2,000 are treated from injuries sustained after tripping over extension cords.

• If you do need to get higher up in decorating inside or outside your home, use a ladder rather than a chair or other furniture.
• If you are stringing lights on your house with a ladder, make sure the ladder is stable and on level ground. As you work, stay level with the area you are working on and do not over reach.
• Do not string extension cords across walkways, hallways or in some other way that makes it a tripping hazard.

Choking Hazards
During the holidays your children will be exposed to new toys and even new foods. Be aware of what is age appropriate for your child. The biggest concern with small children is choking.

• For young children, check to ensure that toys do not have small parts that could be placed in a child’s mouth.
• Be aware of toy labeling to ensure that the toy is right for your child’s age.
• Tree ornaments or icicles can pose a choking risk as well.
• Common holiday foods like peanuts and popcorn should not be given to kids under 4 years old.

Dog Bite Prevention
This holiday season, we all need to be aware of our pets, especially dogs. Over 100,000 children under 10 are treated in hospital emergency departments annually for dog bites. Over the holidays you may visit other people who have dogs, or you may have a dog. Any dog, even your family dog, can bite.

• Never leave young children alone with a dog.
• Teach children to be gentle and to never tease or bother a dog that is sleeping or eating.

Feeling Depressed
The holidays are filled with a sense of joy, but for many can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Some people can feel so depressed that they no longer want to live. In Connecticut, someone dies by suicide every day of the year on average. There are a number of things you can do for others, or for yourself to feel better during the holidays.

• If you know someone who is isolated or alone, include the person in your celebrations.
• Sometimes helping others during the holidays can help you to feel better too. Volunteer your time in a soup kitchen, for a toy drive or give a hand to your neighbor.
• If you feel that you or someone you care about is in crisis, dial 2-1-1 (in Connecticut).
• You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255.
• Dial 9-1-1 if you are in a life threatening situation.