Cautious risks and potential rewards of taking part in outdoor activities this fall

The wet and cooler weather has started to dry up, but like most years, outdoor activities still remain the safer option for Thanksgiving and Halloween gatherings. “[People] often have the attitude that it will…

Cautious risks and potential rewards of taking part in outdoor activities this fall

The wet and cooler weather has started to dry up, but like most years, outdoor activities still remain the safer option for Thanksgiving and Halloween gatherings.

“[People] often have the attitude that it will be colder out, and the weather will be worse for outdoor activities, but after looking at the weather numbers of the past few years, it looks like the number of people who get injured outdoors will be lower than it would be otherwise,” Dr. Tom Shaw, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on Sports Medicine and a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said on American Family Voices on November 5, 2018.

According to the National Weather Service, the number of people who are injured falling on anything at home has been steadily decreasing over the past 40 years. And according to Shaw, that trend is also a sign that our expectations are lower.

“We’re watching people change their expectations of outdoor activities,” he said. “They’re not looking at the worst case scenario, like sliding off a cliff, so that may be part of the decrease.”

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Shaw continued, saying that “a lot of this is that people are realizing the risks involved with changing their careers, pursuing an interest in something other than their previous job. So it’s really important to realize that staying active is not a risk per se. It’s a protective layer that keeps you healthy and helps prevent things like depression.”

As a physician and dietitian, Shaw offered plenty of advice for anyone involved in outdoor activities.

“A good rule of thumb, which I think it’s important for all people, especially parents of young children to understand is that your risk is actually much lower for your child if they’re walking home from school, than it is for their car that’s parked outside that needs to be maintained, or their play yard,” he said.

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In 2018, more than 3.6 million people were injured when being hit by an automobile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s more than 15 crashes per day, or roughly one per hour, in the U.S. More than 95 percent of all car accidents are caused by human error, whether it’s distracted driving, a driver’s inattention, running a red light or making a small error that leads to an accident.

“Distraction is a major concern, so if you’re driving and you’re talking on the phone, or texting, or looking down at your phone, what do you mean to do it? Is that what you meant to do?” Shaw said. “So just don’t do it, but, if you do, check the weather conditions. And let’s face it, if it’s any rain, well, that might be an extra problem to deal with.”

According to the CDC, about 3,600 people died in car crashes in 2018, while nearly three million of the 20 million were injured. But the vast majority of those people were not involved in a crash that led to an injury.

“There are fewer injuries now than in the past, primarily because we have so many people using seat belts and we encourage people not to ride in the back seat in a vehicle if they’re not comfortable,” Shaw said. “But if you’re in a crash, your seat belt alone is not going to prevent the injury. [That] is really a function of your behavior and how you react.”

Shaw also pointed out that many people forget about prescription drugs when they are behind the wheel.

“Anything that has a numbing, a sedating effect, that tends to cause a heightened level of safety risk in a crash,” he said. “If I take something that makes me feel better, and then I drive, that’s a good example. When I take that same medication, I shouldn’t drive. But I have to weigh my role as the driver, the impact that I have, versus the consequences of harm to someone else.”

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