Question of the Week

November 28, 2005

This month has been a busy one for headlines that could have been avoided.

"November 11, 2005
There were some frightening moments for a Denver family Friday afternoon when they left their car running with their little girl inside and the vehicle was stolen from in front of their house. The theft occurred at about 2:15 p.m. ... Fortunately, the car thief noticed the extra passenger and six minutes later, dropped the 1-year-old girl off in front of a home about a half-mile away ... The girl was found safe and reunited with her family. ..."

It was broad daylight. The car was parked right in front of their house. Fortunately, the girl was found safe. Unfortunately, this story is not unique. How could this incident have been avoided?

'"Police say cars that are left out in the open with the engine running are easy targets, but it's a common practice, especially during winter months when drivers like to warm up their cars in front of their homes. 'You go out, you start your car off. People are doing this all the time, not thinking that they're going to leave their kid in their car... They run in to get something and then all of a sudden, boom. Gone in just a second, your car is gone, your child is gone and you're horrified,' said Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police say they are going to order the parents to go into the police station to talk about child neglect and child abuse issues before they decide if charges are warranted in this case."

This family will likely learn from its mistake. Maybe, as others hear about this incident, parents, older siblings, and babysitters across the country will consider what might happen before leaving a young child alone in a car. Do those who witness and/ or hear about tragedy learn from the mistakes of others?

"A Metra express train slammed into five cars trapped in rush-hour traffic at an Elmwood Park crossing Wednesday night, causing a thunderous chain reaction that tore apart vehicles and left 16 people injured, three critically. ... Residents and Elmwood Park officials said the crossing on Grand Avenue has long been problematic, with motorists routinely trying to squeeze across the tracks as the gates are coming down. The train crosses four-lane Grand Avenue at an angle, making the crossing unusually long."
Chicago Tribune

Some cars were damaged, others totaled. Some occupants of the cars were injured. Others, realizing that they could not move their cars to safety, left their cars on the tracks and fled on foot from the oncoming train. How could this incident have been avoided?

"Signs above the crossing warn motorists: 'Long Crossing. Do Not Stop on Tracks.' Witnesses said eastbound traffic was gridlocked from the traffic light all the way back across the tracks. The distance between the light and the tracks is several car lengths. 'There's warning signs all over the place that they shouldn't cross,' said Elmwood Park Mayor Peter Silvestri. 'But if the traffic is backed up, they'll continue to go across tracks when they shouldn't.' ... Cindy Zahn, 46, who owns a hair salon about a half block west of the crossing, said ... 'It's not unusual for cars to be stuck on the tracks,' she said. 'The bottom line is that there's too much traffic on Grand Avenue and there's nowhere for the cars to go.'"
Chicago Tribune

This is not the first time there has been an accident at this crossing. The following day, eyewitness accounts were reporting that within hours of the crossing's reopening, cars were once again sitting on the tracks as they waited for the light to change... Do those who witness and/ or hear about tragedy learn from the mistakes of others?

"(CNN) -- The bodies of a father and his 9-year-old daughter were pulled from an ice-covered pond in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, on Friday, hours after they fell through, authorities said. Authorities suspect the girl fell through to the icy water while skating and her 44-year-old father fell through the ice while trying to pull her out, Sheboygan County Sheriff Michael Helmke said. The girl's sister, 6, witnessed the incident and ran to a nearby house to get help. 'We were unable to make a rescue,' Helmke said. ..."

Every year stories of children (and adults) falling through thin ice make the news. Every year, those who live in (or visit) regions of the country with frozen lakes and ponds are reminded of the risks. Unfortunately, these reminders often come with tragic stories attached.

"The ice was about 3 inches thick -- thinner in some areas -- and the pond was between 8- and 10-feet deep, authorities said. Solid ice 2-inches thick can support one person on foot or skates, according to data available on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site. The accident was the second of the day in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Earlier Friday police rescued an 11-year-old boy from a pond in Waldo after he went through the ice on his all-terrain vehicle, according to the sheriff's office. ... The temperature in the region early Friday afternoon was about 22 degrees."

It was 22 degrees outside (certainly below freezing).

"The ice was about 3 inches thick -- thinner in some areas..."

Skating, traveling on an ATV, or even just walking, it can be difficult to detect where those areas of thinner ice are before you are in the middle of them. That said, How could these incidents have been avoided?

Questions of the Week:
What other examples can you think of where people take chances in their day to day lives and assume that all will work out for the best? What examples can you think of where people do things without even taking time to consider the what might go wrong? In what circumstances do you (or people you know) think twice before doing something because of what might happen? When should people alter their decisions based upon, "What if...?" Where is the balance between making safe choices that consider the consequences, and being paranoid? Is it ever okay to be "paranoid"? If so, when? If not, why not?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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