Healthy Living in the North

Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Preventing injury with IMAGINE grants

This article was co-authored by Mandy Levesque and Denise Foucher.


Students touching jello brain

What would an injury prevention project look like in your community?

With the recent launch of the IMAGINE Community Grants offering funding up to $5,000, the time is right to take action to promote health and improve the well-being of our northern residents.

Injury prevention is one of the health promotion priorities we want to see as a project focus when the grant applications come in (deadline is October 31, 2016) and is definitely one way to ensure northern residents can stay healthy.

What injury prevention project idea would benefit your community?

Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are not “accidents.” They happen in similar, predictable patterns and as many as 90% of injuries can be prevented.

In B.C., preventable injuries that happen:

  • On the road,
  • From falling,
  • In or near water, and
  • From ATVs

are among the leading causes of death and hospitalization across all age groups. Those numbers are even higher among northern B.C. residents.

So, what does an injury prevention focused IMAGINE grant application actually look like?

Longboarders

IMAGINE in Prince Rupert supported safe longboarding. What types of injury prevention needs are there where you live?

Get inspired by these great ideas:

Water safety:

  • Host teen water safety swim nights at the local pool
  • Organize a Life Jacket Fashion Show

Falls prevention:

  • Get the gear for floor curling in community centres
  • Promote sidewalk safety in slippery winter conditions (e.g., install boxes with sand/grit and scoops) (more on falls prevention from FindingBalanceBC.ca)

Road safety:

  • Conduct a walkability assessment and look to make changes for safety (more on walkability from WalkBC.ca and HASTe)

Mental wellness:

IMAGINE grants support partnerships and build capacity, and create an opportunity to build lasting change in your community. Get your exciting injury prevention project applications in by October 31, 2016.

Injury prevention infographic


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Is distracted driving really only about cellphones?

When I heard of the new distracted driving fines increasing, I have to admit, I was pleased. When I am on the road, I see countless people texting or talking on cellphones and I feel a little nervous driving alongside them.

When I think of distracted driving, I think cellphones. I think of that phone call I have been waiting for that happens to come in as I am driving home. I think of the buzz of a text tempting me to just take a peek while the red light seems to go on and on.

What I didn’t really consider is the passing of water bottles to the backseat because my children are acting like they have been days without water as a distraction. I did not consider the radio surfing to find the right song a distraction. These all take my eyes off the road and my mind away from driving, even for a few precious and seemingly harmless seconds. Although the actual law is for handheld electronic devices, when it comes to preventing injury and death, distracted driving is anything that distracts you from driving, period.

Cellphones are the most common distraction for drivers and are thought to be the cause of high numbers of car crashes and fatalities in recent years. In fact, in 2011, distracted driving caused more car crash fatalities in B.C. than impaired driving. We have good evidence that cellphones and driving do not mix, but what about other distractions? It’s curious that I had only framed distracted driving around cellphones. I am sure I am not the only one.

I am not saying that it is impossible to change the radio station while waiting patiently for the light to change. What I am saying is that maybe we should be looking at everything that distracts us while we navigate a 1500 kg complex machine while moving at speeds up to 120 km/hr with our loved ones beside us. When I first earned my licence, I remember feeling humbled in my responsibility to navigate my car in complex scenarios and to keep myself and those around me safe in potentially dangerous situations. With so many years of driving under my belt, I am a confident driver but, dare I say, a bit lacking in remembering my responsibility as a driver to stay focused and attentive.

This summer while I am driving out to the lake, I will enjoy the sunshine and the songs on the radio about summer, but will commit to being more attentive than I have as of late. I will continue to not let a cellphone distract me, and will also plan ahead to ensure that other people or circumstances will not take my focus away from the road.

Join me in making this commitment to not get distracted while driving and keep our loved ones safe this summer!

 

Distracted driving in B.C. (ICBC)

Distracted driving in B.C. (infographic) ICBC

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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Cars and bikes and joggers, oh my!

Dog sitting on road

Our long summer evenings provide a great chance for all of us (including our four-legged friends!) to get outside! Walkers, joggers, cyclists, drivers, and others are all road users and we all have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe!

Summer is in full swing and I am headed outside every chance I get. With our long summer days, I spend a little longer out walking the dog in the evenings and my kids are constantly asking if we can get out and ride our bikes in the neighborhood or, better yet, on the local trails.

I admit, when I am driving home from work, I sometimes do not give much thought to road safety. Yes, I pay attention to the road, drive the speed limit, and slow down for playground zones, but otherwise I am just enjoying the warm sunshine filtering through my sunroof as I drive along, feeling safe and enclosed in my car.

When I’m walking the dog with a couple of children who are blissfully unaware of potential hazards, though, I find myself acutely aware of road safety. I keep an ear open for an approaching car and am checking each driveway to ensure there is no one about to back out. People who walk, jog, and ride their bikes are road users. Vulnerable road users. Even people who ride motorcycles are considered vulnerable because they do not have an enclosed vehicle for protection. In Northern Health, people who ride motorcycles and those who choose to walk are at the most risk for hospitalization or even death in the event of a crash with a vehicle.

I learned several interesting facts in the Provincial Medical Health Officer’s report: Where the Rubber Meets the Road.

Did you know?

  • A person walking has a 90% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 30 km/hr.
  • A person walking has a 20% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 50 km/hr.
  • Children who are struck by a car were most often not playing in the street and were usually struck mid-block.
  • Older adults walking our roadways are the most vulnerable and have the highest rates of injury of all age groups.

Walking, cycling, and jogging along our northern roads is part of the reason we all love to live in the North. We love to get outside and enjoy the long summer days with our friends (and good old dogs!). All of us in our many roles as road users have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe.

Keep in mind:

  • Older adults may need a little more time than the crosswalk light provides.
  • Playground speed limits save lives. Slow to 30 km/hr or slower between dawn and dusk.
  • Families may be out walking so take the time to double check before backing down the driveway.

Together we can all have a fun and safe summer in the great outdoors!

More information

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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6 tips to stay safe while biking to work

Two cyclists with bikes and helmets in front of workplace.

Biking to work is a great way to be active every day and reach the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that adults need every week. Follow a few safety tips to ensure that your commute is both fun and safe! Are you biking to work this spring and summer?

It’s Bike to Work Week all over northern B.C. and I’ve had a great time logging my trips as part of a team of cycling commuters from Northern Health!

It’s also been an eye-opening experience to see how easy and accessible cycling to work can be! To think that I’m staying active, reducing my environmental footprint, and arriving at work and at home energized without significantly adding to my commuting time is amazing! I’m thinking that this may continue well beyond just this week!

To help me and my fellow riders stay safe this week and into the summer, I chatted with Shellie O’Brien, a regional injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health. Cycling is the leading cause of sports-related injury so to make sure that I can take part in this great activity as safely as possible, Shellie provided some great safety tips!

Why is safe cycling important?

When done safely, cycling is a great way to get active and decrease environmental emissions. Following safe cycling practices, such as wearing a helmet and having a properly adjusted bike, means you and your kids can be safe on the road.

What can drivers do to keep cyclists safe?

Drivers should actively watch for cyclists – including shoulder checking before turning right and watching for oncoming cyclists when making left turns. Remember to always scan for cyclists when you’re pulling onto a road, like from a driveway or parking lot.

When you’ve parked, remember that opening your door can be a hazard. Watch for cyclists before you or your passengers open a door.

Bike to Work Week has great tips for drivers.

How can cyclists like me stay safe?

  1. Protect your head – wear a helmet. A properly-fitted and correctly-worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 85%. When fitting a helmet, use the 2V1 rule: 2 fingers distance from helmet to brow, V-shape around both ears, and 1 finger between chin and strap.
  2. Maintain your bike. Ensure it is adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly. The beginning of the cycling season is a good time to tune up your bike.
  3. Know the rules of the road. Use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs. Always ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going and stay as far right as possible.
  4. Use designated areas for riding when available. If designated areas aren’t available, choose to ride on streets where the speed limit is lower and where traffic is less busy.
  5. Be seen and heard. Wear bright reflective clothing. Ride in well-lit areas and use bike reflectors and lights if you’re planning to ride in low light areas. Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing, if not, use your voice!
  6. Be a role model. Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. The best way to do this is to role model the behaviours.
Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Safe Kids Week 2015: Cycling and road safety

RCMP officer and youth wearing helmets on skateboards.

This year, Safe Kids Week is looking at cycling and road safety with an emphasis on helmets, safe road users, and parents as role models. Look for safety events happening in your community or inspire others and organize an event of your own!

I’m so happy when I see children pulling into school grounds, parks and friends’ houses on their bikes, skateboards and scooters. Who among us can’t identify with the exhilaration of the wind whipping at your face as you pedal and push your way along the streets? The freedom of the open road – there’s nothing quite like it.

Recognizing that children are particularly vulnerable road users and knowing that injuries are the leading cause of death and disability to children, this year Parachute’s Safe Kids Week is promoting awareness of cycling and road safety across Canada. Please take a moment to consider and plan for how you and your community can join in this national campaign running May 4-10, 2015.

This year’s Safe Kids Week theme will focus on:

  • Helmets
  • Safe road users such as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • Parents as role models and influencers

Parachute can support your community Safe Kids Week activities. Check out their website for many great resources including an online toolkit, a backgrounder on cycling and road safety, and an event guide.

Longboarders

Make sure that your children cultivate a love not only for physical activity and the outdoors, but for enjoying these activities safely!

Bodies are made to move and regular physical activity is critical to healthy child development. Every time a child steps out onto a street or sidewalk with family and friends, abilities are tested and realized, memories are made. Encouraging and building on a love for walking, running, biking and skateboarding safely and without injury are priceless gifts to our children. Join us in promoting cycling and road safety in your community by participating in Safe Kids Week 2015. For more information, please visit Parachute and preventable.ca.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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