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Get Your Teen’s Attention on Winter Safety

by Jane Wangersky | January 30th, 2015 | Safety, Teens

icy road (400x400)If you have a teen, you’ve probably done some worrying about him or her this winter. After all, teens are not typically the most careful members of the family. But you can’t be with them all the time, so you try to pass on what you’ve learned about staying safe. However, they don’t usually react well to being instructed by Mom or Dad, especially when what you’re telling them is mostly common sense.

So maybe the way to approach safety is through the points that aren’t just common sense, and can even sound counter intuitive. Here are some examples you can bring up in dinner table conversation; they’re not exactly fun facts, but they’re unexpected enough that they may stick in your teen’s mind in case they’re ever needed.

Ice is weaker closer to the shore. That’s for two reasons: It freezes from the shore outward, and new ice is stronger than old; also, ice there keeps melting and refreezing, which weakens it. This information comes to us from the U.S. Coast Guard — next up is another topic they know all about: Falling into the water.

Warm clothes don’t actually drag you down in the water, and they can help stave off hypothermia. They’ll be heavy once you get out of the water, but you’ll probably be too relieved to mind much. This is why the Coast Guard advises boaters to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature — something to remember when spring comes, and right now while it’s still skating weather.

Speaking of hypothermia, you can also get it from a chill caused by working up a sweat — for example, trying to push your stalled or stuck car in snowy conditions. It may be better to wait, or call, for help. (And it’s definitely a good idea to have a car charger for your phone.)

And cold temperatures can make you more vulnerable to catching a cold. Research at Yale shows the cold virus replicates more quickly and easily in a cold nose. This has only been tested on mice, but in this case they’re close enough.  So . . .

Anyone stranded in their car in a winter storm should stay warm by running the engine 10 minutes every hour, the National Weather Service says. But first, they should get out and make sure there’s no snow clogging the exhaust pipe, and leave a window slightly open. Otherwise gas fumes and/or carbon monoxide can build up in the car.

Finally, when the snow and ice starts to melt, it’s better not to drive through any standing water on the road. You never know what might be in it — the NWS mentions toxins, chemicals, and debris. The road surface may even be damaged.

Mentioning these things to your teen could give them a lifeline if they ever need it.

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