Around my childhood home, the phrase, “Safety's free, so I'm gonna splurge,” could sometimes be heard. While this statement was generally delivered with an undertone of sarcasm, the message was not lost on me. This was evidenced two weeks ago when an unfortunate child heard the same phrase come out of my mouth.
It is amazing the lengths to which society goes to get a “good deal,” and the sacrifices made, financial or otherwise, when the decision is made to “splurge.” One only has to watch several minutes of “Extreme Couponing” or drive by Sonic during Happy Hour for confirmation of this fact. However, it is interesting to note that before any effort is exerted to get a deal, the consumer has to be educated. Education leads to participation, which may lead to repeated, perhaps habitual, involvement.
This same pattern applies to splurging on safety—education must lead to participation, which must lead to the development of a habit. Information is rarely in short supply, so the challenge then becomes garnering participation and perhaps more importantly, the transition to habitual splurging.
For the last two years, the Salina Police Department has participated in USD 305's Back to School Fair by giving children the opportunity to play Safety Tic-Tac-Toe. Before a child can place a game piece on the board, he or she has to answer a safety related question. It is rare that a child does not know the safest place to ride in a vehicle, when a seat belt must be fastened and if he or she needs to be in a child restraint. Despite their correct answers, some of these same kids are unrestrained during traffic stops or at accident scenes. Fast forward eight or ten years and these are likely the same kids who are allowing skateboarders to cling to their vehicles or are falling off racing golf carts and getting concussions.
Perhaps what is missing from this equation is a champion of safety splurging. While I do not expect that anyone, ever, will want to repeat my corny phrase, an acceptable alternative for parents whose kids are leaving for school, work or practice would be, “I love you,” and “Don't be stupid.” I suppose “Don't be stupid,” could alternate with, “Be safe,” or “Buckle up.” These same parents would then be willing to penalize for unsafe actions in an effort to reinforce safety splurging. Teachers would send their students out the door with the admonition to, “Have a good night,” and “Be safe.” School officials, in turn, would be interested in results of the Seat Belts are For Everyone (SAFE) campaign, and encourage increased usage. All drivers would exemplify safe driving and passengers would have the courage to speak up when unsafe activities are taking place. Anytime safety is a demonstrated priority, it sends the message that any perceived extra effort is worth the sacrifice, despite the fact that rewards for safety splurging are more than likely to be intangible.
My appreciation goes to those who splurge on safety - parents whose vehicles do not move until kids are buckled; siblings with younger brothers in boosters in the back; middle school kids who consistently wear bike helmets; high school students who drive the speed limit; young adults who arrange for designated drivers; adults who puts down their cell phones; all who, without prompting, find alternate routes rather than driving around police and construction barricades - and to all those who encourage and exemplify safety splurging. May our efforts encourage habits that help put the brakes on fatalities, and more selfishly, keep me from working horrible traffic accidents.
Crystal Hornseth is an officer with the Salina Police Department