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Accidents DO happen, despite the new CDC spin

Submitted by on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 No Comment

A police agency in a town where I once worked went through a spate of refusing to call anything an accident. Officers would dance and parse and spin and do anything to avoid the a-word.

The official take: Nothing is an accident. Everything could be prevented if people would take more care.

It was silly, pious, hurtful to those involved and naive in the assumption that there’s a human being on Earth who can avoid all, er, nondeliberate mishaps.

Luckily officials gave up on their campaign to drub common sense into the ignorant masses after six months or so. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has taken up the cause.

“Each year in the United States about 12,200 people younger than 19 die of unintentional injuries,” reads a story in today’s Washington Post about a new CDC study. That’s 44 percent of all the deaths in that age group, the story continues.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find the word “accident” used too many times in the 114-page report, though.

“Today we recognize that these injuries, like the diseases that once killed children, are predictable, preventable and controllable,” the CDC asserts in its summary.

Preventable? That’s probably fair in a lot of cases. Predictable and controllable? Not in my world.

I’m still fairly new at this parenting gig, but I can tell you, based on a scant five and a half years’ experience, that very little in a world with children is predictable and controllable.

You can drive yourself mad trying. But in the end, their tiny little brains are not firing on all cylinders, and even the biggest control freaks on Earth find out that once in a while the kid’s going to wiggle out from under the parental thumb long enough to find trouble.

And that’s before you take into account outside factors.

Just take a look at some of the safety tips from The Injury Prevention Program the paper was kind enough to share.

“Make certain that your baby’s car safety seat is installed correctly. Read and follow the instructions that come with the car safety seat and the sections in the owner’s manual of your car. Use the car safety seat every time your child is in the car.”

Suppose your car seat is one of the hundreds recalled every year, some for serious problems. Or, even worse, it included a carrier that was not recalled until after hundred of babies had suffered skull fractures and concussions. Is the “unintentional death” still your fault?

“Be sure your child wears the protective equipment made for that sport, such as shin pads, mouth guards, wrist guards, eye protection and helmets.”

And while you’re at it, hope the equipment wasn’t checked by the guy who pleaded guilty Monday in New Jersey for failing to properly test thousands of youth football helmets.

“Children aren’t good at judging sound, distance or the speed of a moving car. Teach your children to stop at the curb and to never cross the street without a grown-up.”

You can teach and teach and teach and sometimes they forget what they’ve heard in the heat of the moment. Does that make the “unintentional death” the parent’s fault? The child’s fault?

Don’t get me wrong: The tips all are good advice, and I’ve had near knock-down, drag-outs with folks over my dogmatic adherence to most. I think one woman still is an apoplexic over my refusal to use a walker with the baby guys.

And I, too, believe in taking responsibility. I’m the first to stand up and say “I screwed up” on the frequent occasions when I do, and I try to teach the guys the same. It leads to some interesting conversations, such as the one a few nights ago after Big Guy soaked the carpet by kicking over two stadium cups of water while doing a back flip off the couch. Yes, he’s been lectured about both beverage placement and furniture gymnastics.

“I’m sorry. It was an accident.”

“Yes, it was an accident. It’s an accident that wouldn’t have happened, though, if you hadn’t been goofing around.”

But an accident that leads to a child’s death is far more painful than wet feet. And to adopt terminology that assigns blame to parents who will grieve the rest of their lives seems intentionally heartless and cruel.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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