You Can Never Trust a Bottle Rocket

The House has passed legislation requiring dogs who ride in the back of pickups to wear safety harnesses.

Legislation has been introduced to require everyone to wear helmets when riding a bike.

We're offering driver safety classes for people who ride motorcycles.

And all drivers get safety points for their on-road records when it comes to insurance.

Suddenly, my office is inundated with safety tips--including thousands of little stickers and magnets, in bright yellow, reminding you to call 911 in an emergency. (Just call my office and leave your name and address and I'll be happy to mail you some.)

And, with summer here, I guess safety is timely. Think about Fourth of July.

Just a few summers ago, a friend of mine, quietly sitting at a picnic table at a family party in New Hampshire, ended up seriously hurt when a bottle rocket went astray (they have rather unpredictable personalities, these bottle rockets) and buried itself in her back.

Her Fourth ended with an ambulance trip to the hospital.

Our family watched (and called the fire department) when another neighbor sent fireworks screaming across a lake. The fireworks set a garage ablaze.

Another Fourth, in Michigan, we were in the audience in a stadium, and were rained on with burning ash.

And when Westfield had fireworks on the dam, at the end of Shepard Street, I went just once. I refused to go again, after fireworks exploded all around me. The illegal types, not part of the show, as I walked along the path.

This is serious stuff--there were 7,600 injuries related to fireworks-injuries that ended up in emergency rooms, in 1996. Bystanders are more likely to be injured than your friends who are setting off the fireworks, and 44 percent of the injuries hurt children and teens.

Besides, fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts--unless they're part of a professional show.

Good reason to make plans to enjoy the public fireworks this coming weekend! And, leave the explosives to the professionals.

In case you didn't know, Westfield's display is at Westfield High next Friday night. The third. If it rains, go the sixth. In addition to fireworks you'll find face painting, tethered balloon rides, food, and music. And the bombs will start bursting in air at 9:30 p.m.

You can still buy a shell for yourself--just send $5 to $25 to the mayor's office and help sponsor the evening.

We have two parades in Westfield, too! On the Fourth itself, at 10 a.m., enjoy the Hampton Ponds Parade and, at 6:30, the Wyben parade. In between, at noon, be on the Green to touch the new ball going on top the 100-year-old flag pole.

Back to summer safety--bikes, boats and pools.

More than half of all bicycle deaths occur to kids from 5 to 17. Bike helmets will help, of course, but remind them to go with the flow in traffic, keep their reflectors on, and don't even think about riding with headphones.

And, I just learned, when I bought a new helmet, that if it's dented, or in an accident, you should replace it!

Most bicycle fatalities occur in bike/car collisions. And just because you can see a car, doesn't mean it can see you.

Something I never thought about, but kids on vacation should know full name, as well as your name and where you're staying. Look for smoke detectors when you're in hotel, cottage, or relative's. And plan an escape route. Just in case.

Life jackets while in boats are mandated. Drinking and boating don't work any better than drinking and driving.

And even good swimmers can drown, so keep life saving devices at shore or pool's edge. Ask the Westfield YMCA for a home visit for your pool and the neighborhood to be sure everyone knows the rules.

Hope your Fourth is fun! And, safe.

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