Console & Hollawell Blog

Freaky Fridays: 5 Must-Know Tips to Make Trick-or-Treating Safer

By Richard Console on October 24, 2014 - Comments off

Whether your little ghouls and goblins are trick-or-treating on Halloween day or this Saturday – because times vary from one community to another – it’s essential that they take safety precautions. Here are the five tips every trick-or-treater or parent must know to keep trick-or-treat from turning into a real-life horror story.

Trick-or-treating safety tips

1. Be visible. Halloween is among the most dangerous nights of the year for pedestrians. Children are twice as likely to get hit by a car on Halloween than they are on any other night of the year. Each year, hundreds of children die in a pedestrian car accident on Halloween – and that really is scary.


Trick-or-treating in the darkWhen night falls, dark costumes – like the bat above – make your child blend into the darkness, becoming even harder to see. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

A major reason why pedestrians get hit is that motorists “don’t see them.” This year, don’t rely on drivers you don’t know and can’t control to make sure they’re paying attention. Take steps to make your child more visible. If you can persuade them to go for colorful costumes – maybe a vampire in red and black instead of just black – that’s a start. You can also add on highly visible accessories, like treat bags that glow in the dark or reflective tape on shoes, capes, or headgear. Another option is any light-up accessory, like flashlights or the flashing pumpkin necklaces we sent to some local Marlton schools this year. Just as trick-or-treaters need to make themselves visible, they need to make sure that they can see, too. For costume selection, face paint is preferable to masks that could make it hard to see.

 2. Be street smart. Making themselves seen is only one half of what your little trick-or-treaters can do to protect themselves from being struck by a car. Make sure they know – and follow – the rules of the road that apply to them as pedestrians. Walk on the sidewalks rather than in the streets. Always cross in crosswalks instead of jaywalking. Look both ways whenever crossing the street. Keep to main, well-lit roads instead of dark alleys where you are more likely to encounter cars, poorly maintained premises, or even crime.

 Pirate trick-or-treaterIf your child’s costume includes a weapon, opt for lightweight or soft props that are clearly not real to avoid injuries from roughhousing and tragedies that could happen if a fake weapon is mistaken for a real one. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

3. Be welcome. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about celebrating Halloween as your trick-or-treaters are, so remind them to only visit welcoming houses – often, those with porch lights or lighted decorations switched on. Remember, it’s never a good idea to go into a stranger’s home, so only enter the house if the owner who invites you is a neighbor or family friend you know well enough to trust.

Trick-or-treaters getting candyDo you trust this homeowner enough to allow your child to visit if it wasn’t Halloween? If not, remind them to stay outside the house. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

4. Be candy-cautious. Fortunately, most of the worst rumors about dangerous Halloween candy are just urban legends. Though stories of poisoned candy have existed for decades, none are legitimate cases of homeowners intentionally poisoning candy to distribute to trick-or-treaters at random, Snopes.com reported. There have, however, been rare substantiated stories of pins, needles, and razor blades found in candy, usually done as an ill-advised prank but rarely causing significant harm.

Halloween candyMost claims of contaminated candy are hoaxes and myths, according to Snopes.com, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take precautions. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Make it a rule to have an adult inspect all candy before your child eats it. Look for any evidence of tampering with wrappers, and if in doubt, throw it out. You can always replace a favorite candy with a questionable wrapper (especially when leftover bags go on sale after Halloween). Be careful with candy, too, if your child has a serious food allergy. You don’t want your festivities ending with a trip to the emergency room to treat anaphylactic shock.

When it comes to non-packaged treats, use your judgment. Plenty of health-conscious families want to give out something nutritionally better for kids than candy, but don’t let your child eat any unwrapped treat from a stranger – even one that seems like a healthy alternative. In the rare cases where treats are tampered with, apples have been among the foods most commonly contaminated with razor blades or pins. Make sure your children know to only eat homemade goodies from someone they know and trust.

5. Be safe in numbers. If you have young children, take them trick-or-treating instead of sending them off on their own. Your supervision could make all the difference in keeping them safe, and it can also help if they become afraid of another trick-or-treater’s costume or a neighbor’s creepy yard display. (How old is old enough to go trick-or-treating alone? No such thing, in my opinion – and you, not the kids, get to make that decision for your family.)

Trick-or-treating togetherWho says Halloween is just for kids? Put on a costume of your own and make trick-or-treating a family affair. It’s not just good supervision – it’s fun, too! Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

If older children are going unsupervised, make sure they go in a group. Have a talk beforehand about how important it is to stay in a group and to follow traffic safety laws. Choose a safe trick-or-treating route for them to travel in advance, and make sure at least one member of the group has a cell phone and emergency contact information for each group member, just in case.

There are few times of the year more magical for children than Halloween: dressing up as someone (or something) frightening or glamorous, collecting candy, and spending quality time with family or friends. A little fear is part of the holiday, but the scares should be all in good fun. Follow these five tips to make your Halloween a frightfully good time without any real-life frights.

 

Fall Recall Roundup: Car Recall Trends Extend Through Autumn 2014

By Richard Console on October 23, 2014 - Comments off

This year’s seemingly endless tide of car recalls that started off as early as February isn’t over yet. Safety defects from several major automakers continue to plague the industry and, more importantly, vulnerable consumers. Here’s a recap of the biggest car recall news so far this season.

 Air bagRupturing air bags have replaced faulty ignition switches as the most publicized car safety defect this season. Air bags should cushion the impact of a crash, not send shrapnel into victims’ bodies. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Recall News by Automaker

  • Chrysler: This manufacturer’s on fire, and not in a good way. The automaker recalled more than 900,000 cars and SUVs globally in mid-October for fire risks, according to Reuters. The two separate recalls included 470,000 of its own 2011 through 2014 cars and SUVs in which alternator failure could cause fires or stalling and another 437,000 2011 through 2013 Jeep Wrangler SUVs that could undergo an electrical short. Chrysler previously recalled 800,000 cars in July and another 350,000 in September for ignition switch problems. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported yet in relation to this most recent recall.
  • Ford: Ford made headlines in August by issuing the 11th recall for the same ill-fated vehicle, the 2013 Ford Escape SUV. Now it’s an even newer Ford model behind the latest recall: the 2015 Ford Mustang. A calibration problem with the passenger side safety belt buckle tension sensor could result in air bags deploying improperly in case of a collision. At least this is a relatively small recall, with just 53 of these brand new sports cars – 50 of them in the United States – affected, according to Autoblog.
  • General Motors: There are a couple new developments on the GM front. The confirmed death toll resulting from the company’s vehicles with faulty ignition switches is now up to 29, Reuters reported, with the automaker continuing to review hundreds of additional applications for compensation for surviving victims and the family members of those killed. The company also announced its 75th recall of the year, this time of a relatively small batch of 7,600 Chevrolet Caprice vehicles used by law enforcement, The Wall Street Journal reported. This time the issue is with the transmission, not keys, fuel gauges, or power window switches. GM has also recalled hundreds of thousands of new vehicles, including 2,500,000 model year 2014 vehicles and 150,000 model year 2015 vehicles, Automotive News reported.  All told, GM has recalled nearly 30,000,000 vehicles since the start of 2014.
  • Honda: Dangerous air bag defects are among the biggest automotive dangers in the news right now, with the United States government warning that 6,100,000 recalled vehicles need their air bags fixed to prevent a potentially deadly problem. At least one of the reported deaths involved “apparent stab wounds” in the victim’s neck – wounds that resulted from the debris of a faulty Honda Accord airbag that ruptured without warning, according to The New York Times. Honda is one of the 11 automakers that had previously recalled vehicles with defective air bags made by Japanese company Takata. In a separate issue, Honda announced a recall of 43,000 Acura cars earlier this month for seat belts that don’t work properly when exposed to frigid temperatures, USA Today reported. These seat belts won’t extend for drivers and passengers to put them on in the first place, which means motorists in a hurry may drive with no seat belt protection at all.
  • Lexus: Lexus is another brand suffering from Takata air bag recalls. The automaker’s SC430 model is one of the recalled cars in which air bags could rupture when they deploy, potentially slicing drivers’ and passengers’ necks with bits of shrapnel and debris, Autoblog reported. The scary thing about this safety defect is that a faulty air bag could turn what would have been a relatively minor car accident into a deadly one. Toyota will handle the repairs of recalled Lexus vehicles.
  • Mercedes-Benz: If you just bought the new C-Class sedan from Mercedes-Benz, you might soon have to take that luxury car back to the dealership for repairs. About 10,000 of the new 2015 models across the United States were recalled in early October for steering problems, The New York Times reported. The good news? No injuries have been reported, at least not yet.
  • Mitsubishi: In early October, Mitsubishi recalled nearly 166,000 cars with defects that left them in danger of suddenly stalling, Autoblog reported. Recalled vehicles include the 2011 Outlander Sport, Lancer Sportbacks from model years 2009 through 2011, and 2008 through 2011 models of the Lancer, Outlander, and Lancer Evolution.
  • Pontiac: Pontiac Vibe vehicles with model years from 2003 through 2005 are part of the just announced massive recall of vehicles with potentially defective Takata air bags. If your car is among the ones affected, automaker GM will repair it.
  • Toyota: Toyota isn’t the only automaker to recall potentially dangerous Takata air bags, but the manufacturer has the largest share of this most recent recall of 247,000 vehicles, Autoblog reported.
  • Volkswagen: Earlier this month, Volkswagen recalled a total of 1,100,000 Beetle and Jetta models across the United States and China, Autoblog reported. A problem with the rear suspension system of these vehicles could pose a risk to the car’s handling, particularly if the system is unnoticeably but seriously damaged in what seems to be a minor collision.

Consumers in a World of Car Recalls

Nearly every major automaker in the country is struggling with safety recalls – and that means more than frustration for car owners and bad press for manufacturers. People have died because of some of these defects. Others have been injured, and their lives permanently altered. Make sure you know if your car is one of the tens of millions of vehicles recalled this year by visiting SaferCar.gov and checking your vehicle identification number (VIN). If your vehicle is among the recalled, make getting it fixed a priority. You don’t know when that faulty ignition switch or rupturing air bag will suddenly put your life at risk.

Posted in: Recalls

 

Freaky Fridays: How to (Safely) Haunt Your House

By Richard Console on October 17, 2014 - Comments off

Whether you’re transforming your home into a festive haunt for trick-or-treaters, gearing up for a killer (kids’ or adults’) costume party, or creating a haunted house of your own for fun or fundraising, you just can’t celebrate Halloween without doing a spooky little home makeover. All it takes to make haunting your house safe, affordable, and fun is a little creativity.

Ways to Haunt Your House for Halloween

DIY Your Décor

You could spend a fortunate haunting your house – a fog machine here, an animatronic monster there – but you don’t have to. A creepy craft is perfect for Halloween, and there are so many do-it-yourself ideas to choose from that you can easily make enough personalized decorations to fill your house with fright. The best part? You can tailor every project to your personal style, whether it’s eerie elegance, blood and gore, zombie apocalypse, or creepy clowns.

Ghosts

A few ideas to get you started:

 Spooky Halloween SilhouettesThese awesome spooky silhouettes will dress up the windows of your home without a lot of expense or even materials. You just need black paper, a white chalk pencil, scissors, and the free downloadable stencils. Photo and idea credit: Make: blog via TrendHunter.

 Black Light Mask RoomInside your house, what’s freakier than dozens of glowing faces staring from a pitch black room? Cheap white masks, neon spray paint, and a black light create this distorted effect. Photo and idea credit: 102 Wicked Things to Do.

 Human-Sized GhostsThese human-sized ghosts are creepy enough to look professionally made (and expensive), but you can construct them yourself with chicken wire, cheesecloth, and semi-sheer fabric. Photo and idea credit: DIY Network.

Your DIY projects don’t have to end here. From classics like carved jack-o’-lanterns and fake spider webs to mirror ghosts cut from clingy frosted window film, your options are endless. Just remember to follow any safety precautions necessary for the tools you’re using, and you’ll be well on your way to making an affordably (and safely) scary haunt.

Set the Tone

Nothing makes for a creepy scene like a little music – music of the night, that is. You can use a free online music streaming radio site like Pandora or build your own playlist (again, for free) with a service like Spotify.

What kind of music makes for eerie Halloween listening?

 organ musicFor classical tastes, Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous organ composition Toccata and Fugue, often used in haunted houses and scary movie scenes, is a great choice. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Other options?

  • Popular classics like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
  • Soundtracks from your favorite Halloween movies, whether horror films (think Psycho or Friday the 13th) or comedies (like Beetlejuice or Ghostbusters)
  • Television soundtracks, like themes from The Addams Family or The Twilight Zone

Feed the Ghosts

What’s Halloween without a treat? For trick-or-treaters you don’t necessarily know, your best bet is to use prepackaged candy or other snacks – after all, a good rule of thumb for children and their parents is to only accept Halloween treats from strangers if it’s certain that the food hasn’t been tampered with.

For private parties, though, anything goes.

Deviled "Eyeballs"Deviled “eyeball” eggs? Photo Credit: Flickr.

Mummy pizzasMummy mini pizzas? Photo Credit: Flickr.

Vampire cupcakes“Bleeding” vampire cupcakes? Photo Credit: Flickr.

The list goes on. Browse websites like AllRecipes.com, the Cooking Channel, and the Food Network to find the perfect recipes for the Halloween celebration of your dreams nightmares.

Do’s and Don’ts of Haunting Your House (and Keeping It Safe)

Crafty decorations, festive music, and a frightening feast are all you need for a party, but suppose you’re going for something truly chilling. Many people transform their homes into a haunted house for trick-or-treaters or adult celebrators, but it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you avoid creating any real safety hazards for your guests – or legal problems for yourself. One thing you don’t want is for your Halloween fun to become scary for real.

  • DO use your favorite special effects – fog machines, strobe lights, black lights, sound effects, and more – but DON’T forget to warn guests what they might experience. Sure, you want the element of surprise, but what you don’t want is to cause someone to suffer a seizure or asthma attack. DO read the instructions and safety precautions before you set up these effects. DO use props instead of real weapons (like chainsaws) to protect everyone at the site, not only from accidental injuries but also from exposure to fumes and excessive noise.

 Halloween FogOnly use fog machines outdoors or in rooms that have enough ventilation, and know where these and other electronics can safely be plugged in and whether they will get hot enough to burn someone. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

  •  DO use darkness and dim lighting to disorient visitors, but DON’T allow there to be any real tripping hazards in their paths. You don’t want someone to fall and get hurt. Also, DON’T use candles or real flames of any kinds if there’s a chance they might be left unattended. A fire would be frightening for all the wrong reasons. Make necessary lighting part of the scene with fake cobwebs or dark draped fabric and consider replacing regular light bulbs with colorful ones that can complement the room décor and theme. Take advantage of the shadows your lights create to hide moving decorations or actual human scarers.
  • DO use a combination of props and people to do your scaring, but DON’T assign roles without planning first. Effects that seem like props but turn out to be real people can easily startle guests, but make sure neither your scarers nor your guests will be in danger.

 Living Head on a Platter PrankWhen the head on a platter begins moving and talking, unsuspecting guests jump. This is a safe and effective trick. The long tablecloth and a hole cut in the “table” makes it easy to hide the rest of the scarer’s body. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

 Man Hanging in TreeIf you want a human scarer hanging from a tree, though, you’ll have to make sure you buy and correctly install a safety harness – otherwise the actor could fall. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Finally, DO be aware of any legal or insurance risks you could open yourself up to while hosting your haunted house. Even in commercial haunted houses, the kind that are created and staffed by real businesses, there are limits on what actors can and can’t do for purposes of protecting visitors and reducing the liability of the actors and the company. As the owner of a private residence, you should set down some ground rules, too. While it might a fun prank to scare a friend by grabbing them, grabbing a stranger in the same way could put you at risk for assault charges. If you open your haunted house to the public, DON’T touch guests to scare them. Also, DO make sure that the property is insured and that you’re not doing anything that could void the terms of your insurance policy in case someone were to get hurt.

A little Halloween fun never hurt anyone – at least, as long as no real danger was involved. By keeping important safety tips in mind, getting crafty with décor and food, and setting the mood with music, you can make this Halloween a ghostly good time.

 

Freaky Fridays: What Haunted House Actors Can and Can’t Do

By Richard Console on October 10, 2014 - Comments off

Some people love a good scare, especially around Halloween. For others, the excitement of going to a haunted attraction takes a backseat to the fear and anxiety. Don’t let being nervous make you miss out on the fun. Get the courage and confidence you need to make it through a haunted house, hayride, or walkthrough by knowing what to expect. Can the actors of a haunted house harm you? Can they touch you? Read on.

Haunted CastleIf your local haunted attraction seems this intimidating even though you know the scares aren’t real, knowing what to expect can ease your fears. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Don’t Worry, You’re Not Making a Grave Mistake

First, let me reassure you: despite what the actors at the attraction’s entrance may tell you, generally speaking, a haunted house can’t actually harm you. The actors are, after all, just actors. Their job is to scare you, but they won’t – that is, shouldn’t or can’t legally – assault you. No commercial haunted houses would continue to operate if it gained a reputation for actually killing or injuring its customers. You go to these attractions to feel scared, not to be put in real danger. However gross, gory, or disturbing the experience may be, it’s all supposed to be fun.

Chainsaw with zombiesFake chainsaws are common in haunted attractions, and some look and sound realistic, complete with moving parts. If an attraction does use a real chainsaw, the chain will be removed first. The goal is to scare you, not hurt you! Photo Credit: Flickr.

A Touchy Subject

Can the actors in a haunted attraction touch you? Well… it’s complicated.

In many haunted houses, the actors are prohibited from touching you. The rule typically goes both ways, with visitors not being allowed to touch the actors, either. Though they aren’t necessarily your typical businesses, haunted attractions and their personnel still have to follow laws just as other companies and individuals do. Even haunted houses run by nonprofit organizations, or by individuals at their own private residences, have obligations.

Haunted house actorSome haunted attractions offer a “deal” – don’t touch the actors, and they won’t touch you. Photo Credit: Flickr.

Suppose an actor reaches out to grab you and ends up hitting you unintentionally – hard enough to give you a bloody nose or split lip, or otherwise make you require medical care. In some instances, the actor and the business could be held legally responsible for your injuries. What if a touch by the actor, however innocently intended, makes the visitor uncomfortable or is mistaken for sexual harassment? No one wants an evening of fun scares to turn into an accident, to bring about insurance claims or police involvement. The reason many haunted attractions follow the no-touching rule is to avoid any civil or criminal liability for mishaps that could be caused by actors touching visitors.

But…

Not all haunted attractions follow the same guidelines. At some attractions, actors can, and will, touch you. Locally, Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia now gives visitors a choice: come as you are and observe the horror or accept a glow-in-the-dark necklace that gives actors the right to make you part of the show. If you choose the necklace, actors can grab you, separate you from your group, and make you to enter “secret passageways.”

Eastern State PenitentiaryNot sure you want to be touched? Eastern State Penitentiary lets you opt out of the interactive experience. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Other attractions don’t give visitors a choice. When they purchase tickets, they are agreeing to the rules of the attraction – and if those rules allow actors to touch the visitors, buying a ticket implies that you agree to be touched. Even in haunted houses that allow touching, most do set guidelines they expect employees to follow (though visitors might not know those guidelines). At Ohio’s Bloodview haunted house, for example, “the touch policy only allows touching above the shoulders and below the knees,” so visitors enter knowing to expect actors to “play with your hair, touch your hands and arms and even tickle your calves,” reported local news source WKYC.

Be aware that there are some truly scary attractions out there that go further than your standard haunted house. Often, these are adult-only attractions that make you sign a waiver. They may contain scenes of extreme and graphic violence and may also go farther in allowing actors to scare visitors by touching them. Some of these places forbid groups of people from traveling together – instead, each visitor must go through the attraction alone.

So how do you know what you’re getting into before you enter a haunted attraction? Always check with the venue. Often, these attractions post warnings on their websites and signs at their physical locations. You could always call or email the attraction organizers for information. Knowing what to expect can make the difference between having a great time and being miserable.

What Else to Know Before You Go

Even though the actors can’t actually harm you, prepare to be scared. You can be chased (with chainsaws). You can be startled by jumping “zombies,” “ghosts,” and “monsters.” There may be fake blood, eyeballs, or other props intended to gross you out. Expect darkness, strobe lights, artificial fog, loud noises, and potentially uneven flooring. Some attractions feature live animals, like insects, rats, or reptiles, though these attractions often warn visitors of this fact. Many actors will interact verbally or otherwise with haunted house visitors, even if they’re not allowed to touch them. Haunted attractions typically have guidelines on footwear or even clothing to keep visitors safe – because open-toed shoes could expose your feet to a safety hazard, and navigating dark steps or running through an outdoor maze in high heels could cause you to fall.

 Haunted houseBecause you know the actors can’t actually harm you, even if you find the haunted house too frightening for your liking, the worst you will face is some temporary anxiety and discomfort. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Whether it’s your first time at a haunted house, you self-identify as a “chicken,” or you’re worried about how your young child will react, the best way to make a haunted attraction fun – like it’s supposed to be – is to research and choose wisely which attraction is right for you. Know what to expect before you go, and then have a blast. After all, Halloween only comes once a year – make the most of it!

 

Slow Down for Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day

By Richard Console on October 10, 2014 - Comments off

Each year, more than 30,000 Americans die sudden and avoidable deaths in motor vehicle collisions. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of more than three-quarters of the population of Mount Laurel or nearly half the population of Cherry Hill. These people are killed in the middle of living their lives. They leave behind loving families, devoted friends, promising careers, and unfinished personal goals.

This needs to stop.

Fatal motor vehicle accidentIt’s not just reckless drivers who get killed – so do the innocent people they encounter. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, October 10, 2014, is Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. We as a nation should make safety a priority every single day, but unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. In fact, fatal crash rates have increased in recent years, jumping by more than 1,000 from 2011 to 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. So, the National Society of Professional Engineers, with the help of other organizations and agencies, stress safety on October 10th of every year “so that for at least one day, there will be no fatalities” on the roads, according to the official State of New Jersey Website.

Join us in putting the brakes on fatalities and making this October 10th fatality-free.

The Speeding Factor

“Put the Brakes on Fatalities” isn’t just a clever name. Speeding is such a prevalent factor in deadly car crashes that we’re literally talking about the need to slow down. Speeding contributes to 30 percent of deadly motor vehicle accidents each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It costs more than 13,000 lives and $40,000,000,000 annually, the National Safety Council reported. Crashes that involve speeding also often include other risk factors, as well – like drunk driving and failing to wear a seat belt. Evidence shows that speeding is like many other bad driving habits: drivers know it’s dangerous, but engage in it anyway.

When you speed, you’re focusing on the small details – the number on a clock or the amount of minutes you can shave off of your trip – but ignoring the big picture. Every time you get behind the wheel, you take your life in your hands, not to mention the lives of the other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road with you. You’re operating a vehicle that literally weighs tons of pounds at such a speed that its impact can be deadly in a collision. Don’t we all have the responsibility not to increase the risks by driving faster than we should? Isn’t it selfish for any of us to think that saving a few minutes of our time is worth putting the safety of others in a greater danger?

Fatal Accident Memorial SiteThere’s no way to explain to a grieving parent, child, spouse, or best friend that their loved one died because you were in a hurry. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Every Fatality Counts – and So Does Every Factor in Accidents

If we really want to put the brakes on fatalities, we need to do more than slow down. We need to put away the things – cell phones, GPS systems, newspapers, tablets, drive-through fast food meals – that distract us from what should be our only task: paying attention to the road. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have driving – it’s not enough. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, driving requires you’re full attention.

We need to resolve never to drink and drive. Period. Not, “unless I’m only driving a couple of blocks home.” Not, “unless I don’t feel like calling for a ride or a taxi.” Never. An accident can happen in the couple of blocks you are driving impaired, and it will cost you way more than the taxi fare would have.

It’s imperative that we are all mindful of others on the road, no matter what our role is. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen drivers ignore pedestrians even in marked crosswalks, doing everything right. They drive by without even slowing down, putting those pedestrians at risk. Pedestrians, too, need to follow the rules of the road. They need to cross at crosswalks instead of jaywalking. At intersections governed by traffic lights, they must wait until they have the right of way – not just run out in front of cars that have the green light and expect them to miraculously stop without warning. Bicyclists need to stay in bike lanes where they exist, ride single file, and follow all traffic safety laws just as a motorist would do. Every one of us can do our part to make our streets and intersections safer.

Fatal bicycle accident memorialHundreds – if not more – of ghost bikes like this memorialize cyclists killed on the roadways. We all have the right to be safe, no matter what mode of transportation we use. Photo Credit: Flickr.

Maybe you’re not surprised by the statistics. After all, deadly crashes happen every day. However, behind each and every number is a life, a person who never came home, a person whose loved ones received a devastating phone call that shattered life as they knew it. We all deserve safer roads. We all deserve the opportunity to make it home alive. So let’s all make a promise to make the roads a little safer today – and hopefully for many more days.

 

Growth Slows in Prescription Overdose Deaths

By Richard Console on October 8, 2014 - Comments off

Let’s start with the bad news: prescription painkiller overdoses are up yet again. In 2011 – the most recent year for which data has been released – 16,917 people died from drug poisoning involving opioid painkillers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

Prescription Painkiller Overdose DeathsMore people died from prescription medication overdoses than from overdosing on heroin and cocaine combined – and that’s been the case for years now. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

There is good news, though. Yes, overdose deaths are still increasing – but the rate by which they’re increasing has finally slowed down. To put it in perspective, each year from 1999 through 2006, overdose rates increased 18 percent. That’s dropped to just three percent a year from 2007 through 2011, WSB Radio reported. This is a pretty big deal when we’re talking about fewer people dying needlessly, and it’s a big step in the right direction.

The Rise and Fall of Prescription Overdose Rates

The swell in prescription painkiller overdose deaths didn’t happen at random. All it really took to create the current epidemic of overdose deaths was the belief that opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin were safe to prescribe and highly unlikely to lead to addiction or overdose. For years, the medical community prescribed opioid painkillers liberally – for the first time, to patients who were not terminally ill but instead who simply dealt with chronic pain. In hindsight, it seems like a stretch that a powerful medication in the same class of drugs as heroin would be perfectly safe for patients to take at high doses, for years at a time. Then, though, well-intentioned physicians across the country only hoped to ease patients’ pain, never realizing the dangers of these medications until it became too late.

Now that the medical community has seen the effects of long-term opioid use, and the high risk of developing an addiction or overdosing on the medication, most doctors know that it’s no longer acceptable to prescribe so many painkillers. Yet there are still doctors who over prescribe these potentially dangerous painkillers and patients who pay the price. Those doctors that haven’t learned to be more careful prescribing opioid medications and who do harm patients can lose even lose their licenses to practice medicine.

Awareness of the risks within the medical community and the consequences of over prescribing may be part of the reason why overdose rates aren’t growing quite as fast as they were before. Additional restrictions on methadone, used as part of a treatment plan for individuals battling addictions to certain drugs, are probably playing an important role, as well, WSB Radio reported. The availability of medical marijuana in many states could also contribute to the change in overdose death rates, according to Wall Street OTC.

Making More Steps Forward

Slowing the trend of overdose death increases is a small victory, but as a nation, we’re still far from where we want to be. We still have a lot of work to do. One possible strategy for further reducing overdose deaths is to create a national database that would allow providers across the country to manage and share information about prescription drug use. Such a program would prevent doctor-shopping, or going from physician to physician to get more medication. It could help doctors keep better track of painkiller misuse or abuse. However, no such database yet exists, TIME reported.

Going forward, it’s essential that our nation continues to implement new ways to relieve the prescription painkiller abuse epidemic. The CDC’s recent data illustrates that the measures we’re taking to stop overdose deaths is working. My hope is that we’ll soon see the days when overdose deaths are finally on the decline.

 

How to Have a Better Commute: Drive Safely to Work Week

By Richard Console on October 6, 2014 - Comments off

The daily commute is a part of life for most of us – probably not one of our favorite parts, but a necessary part. Keeping yourself safe is just as necessary. Don’t let the daily routine lull you into thinking that your commute is risk-free. Every time you get on the road, you could get into an accident – so every time you get on the road, you should set yourself up to have the best commute possible. In honor of Drive Safely to Work Week, here’s our list for brighten up your commute and make it safe and trouble-free.

Safe CommuteDoes this image remind you of your commute? Whether you take busy highways or less congested back roads, know the dangers and focus on what matters – driving safely. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Three Ways to Have a Better Commute

1. Quiet Time

 Most American’s lives are so stressful that it’s no wonder you feel rushed. Going to work, you’re worrying about the traffic and whether it will make you late. You might still be tired from not getting a full night’s sleep, or already agonizing over the work that awaits you today. Coming home, you’re worn-out from a long day. Your mind is wondering – to family or household obligations, to your plans for the evening or the weekend, or even to more work that you have to get done.

It’s easy to feel exhausted by a hectic schedule, but that’s exactly why you need a break sometimes. Reframe the way you think about your commute. The traffic is what it is, something you can’t control and something no amount of worrying about will change. Go ahead and use the time you spend commuting to organize your thoughts.

Break large, overwhelming tasks into smaller pieces – whether it’s an assignment at work, a plan to accomplish your household projects, or a personal obligation you’re dealing with. Make mental lists, and don’t be afraid to talk to yourself – after all, there’s no one to judge you for it. Use the time to accomplish mundane tasks or work toward your dreams. Schedule your dinners for the week to make it easier to grocery shop later or plan your child’s birthday party. If you’ve always wanted to be a stand-up comedian or a write a book, use the time to brainstorm your stand-up routine or develop your plot ideas.

 Just make sure you don’t get too lost in your deep thoughts that you stop paying attention to the road. Remember, distracted driving doesn’t have to involve a cell phone to be dangerous.

2. Tune In

 A quiet commute isn’t for everyone, or even for every day. Sometimes you want to do just the opposite – tune in to music. It’s not just your imagination that listening to your favorite songs makes you feel better. In fact, the many health benefits of music include easing the intensity of pain (to help you get rid of that headache), decreasing stress and anxiety, and elevating mood specifically while driving, USA Today reported. You might already listen to music in the car, but you probably don’t do it purposefully. Start by making playlists or mix CDs of music that will work well for driving – music that makes you happy instead of triggering anxiety, that helps you relax and ups your mood by getting your mind off of the stress at work or at home.

 Just be sure you never have your music so loud that it will drown out important sounds around you, like the sirens of emergency vehicles or the honk of another driver’s horn. Also, choose to listen only to music that won’t distract you. Set up your music before you get on the road, whether that means hooking up a phone or other device, finding the right CD, or activating Bluetooth features. If you listen to the radio, be aware that even fiddling with the buttons in your car can be a distraction. Be careful flipping through radio stations, especially if your hands have to leave the steering wheel to do so.

3. Give Yourself Five Extra Minutes – And Make the Most of Them

You may have come across signs that urge drivers to “take five – arrive alive,” but even if you follow the advice, you’re probably not thinking too much about what it means or why those five minutes matter. Make your five minutes count by:

  • Setting yourself up for your drive. Do you need directions? Get your GPS system or the directions app on your phone running and in position before you ever leave your driveway. Make your music selections (or lack thereof) now, so you don’t have to compromise your focus while you’re on the road. Need to make one last phone call or send a text message? Now’s the time. When you’re done, put the phone away. You don’t need it. Everyone knows texting and driving is dangerous, and besides, your commute is the one time of the day when you get to be “unplugged.” Consider it “me time” and enjoy the freedom. Emails and text messages from your family, your friends, and your coworkers can wait.
  • Leaving early enough that you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll make the green light at the next traffic signal. This might sound like a little thing, but in reality, it’s huge. We once had a client, a child, who was paralyzed because the driver of another vehicle tried to “make the light” when she should have stopped and waited for the next green light. She turned without having the right of way and collided with the car our client was riding in, and now this child’s life will never be the same. This could be you. Every one of us can spare five minutes of time on our commute so that someone else doesn’t have their health taken from them.

 A Commuting Culture

We are a nation of commuters. Around 128,300,000 employees travel to work in the United States, and upwards of 87 percent of us take a car, truck, or van, either driving alone or carpooling, Statistic Brain reported. More than two-thirds of us live within 15 miles of our workplaces, half of employees live within 10 miles, and 29 percent are just five or fewer miles from work. Despite the fact that we’re generally not going all that far, for something we do on a pretty routine basis, we’re not very good at it – and it’s time to change that.

Motor vehicle collisions don’t have to happen. If every single driver paid attention to the road and followed traffic laws at all times, the crash rate would be near zero. You can’t control the actions of other drivers, but you can do everything possible to minimize your risk of getting hurt, and maybe even make your commute a little less painful in the process.

 

Freaky Fridays: Can’t-Miss Halloween Attractions

By Richard Console on October 3, 2014 - Comments off

It’s October, and that means Halloween is just around the corner! From traditional walkthroughs with chainsaw-wielding actors to interactive zombie paintball shoots, what better way to get in the spirit (pun intended) than to visit some of the best “haunted” local attractions? (If you’re looking for real sites believed to be home to paranormal activity, check back with us later in the month for an upcoming Freaky Fridays blog post.) Here’s the scoop on our favorite South Jersey and Philadelphia haunted houses, hayrides, corn mazes, walkthroughs, and other scarily festive events – because it’s just not Halloween without a good scare.

Best Local Halloween Attractions

  1. Night of Terror at Creamy Acres Farm

 Creepy clownsBeware the creepy clowns! Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Where: Mullica Hill, NJ (Gloucester County)

What: Night of Terror isn’t exactly your neighborhood haunted house. Called “the largest and scariest haunted attraction in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware,” the farm features six separate attractions:

    • The Slaughter Cave Haunted House
    • The 3D Funhouse
    • The Zombie Mayhem Haunted House
    • The Ride of Terror Haunted Hayride
    • The Cornfield Maze (Not your average corn maze!)
    • The Frozen Tundra Haunted House

Creamy Acres Farm also hosts a Haunted Paintball Hayride, which it bills as “the first Haunted Paintball Hayride Zombie Hunt in the country.”

What to Know: Tickets are $30 to $35 per person, depending on the date you choose, and they include admission to six attractions. Tickets for the Haunted Paintball Ride are sold separately for $25. You can sign up for email coupons through the attraction’s website. Creamy Acre Farm’s Night of Terror attractions have been featured on HGTV’s Scariest Haunted Houses, so you can be sure this place really is frightening and isn’t for the faint of heart or the very young.

  1. Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

 Best haunted attractions - Eastern State PenitentiaryAs if the fear factor wasn’t enough of a reason to go to Terror Behind the Walls, you’re also helping a charity. All proceeds go to preserving the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Where: Philadelphia, PA

What: The historical prison is said to be haunted for real, but at this time of year, you’ll find the landmark transformed into a huge haunted house complete with moments of pitch blackness, zombies, lots of spooky effects – and of course the real-life creepy atmosphere of an abandoned prison.

Terror Behind the Walls features six attractions inside the prison-turned-museum:

    • Detritus
    • The Experiment (in 3D)
    • The Infirmary
    • Lock Down
    • Machine Shop
    • Night Watch

Terror Behind the Walls is billed as “the number one haunted attraction in America,” and for good reason. Guests have the option of becoming part of the show by taking a glow-in-the-dark necklace at the entrance to the attraction. If you’ve always wanted to be “operated on” by a mad doctor or stolen away from your group and sent down secret passageways, here’s your chance. Even if you’ve been to Terror Behind the Walls before, this year is a great time to visit again. The brand new Machine Shop is the most interactive attraction yet at Eastern State Penitentiary.

What to Know: Buy your tickets online to save some money! Door prices range from $19 to $45 depending on the date, but you can generally save $6 per ticket by purchasing online. Also, going earlier in the season and avoiding busy Saturday nights can save you some cash, too.

Thinking of taking your kids? Eastern State Penitentiary hosts designated Family Nights with discounted tickets for children. The show is just as scary, but frightened kids can ask monsters to “be good” and leave them alone.

  1. Bamboo Gardens Walk of Fear

 Australia --- View of a path through bamboo forest --- Image by © CorbisReviewers describe the Walk of Fear as feeling as though you’re in a horror movie. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Where: Southampton, NJ (Burlington County)

What: Think a bamboo forest is frightening? You will once you embark on the Walk of Fear. The attraction features 10 themed areas:

    • The Asylum
    • Blacklite Forrest
    • Blood Beach
    • The Boneyard
    • Chainsaw Alley
    • Claustrophobic Tunnels
    • Halls of Horror
    • The Looney Bin
    • The Ruins
    • Skullville

Bamboo Gardens Walk of Fear is highly rated on New Jersey Haunted Houses and has something for everyone, from zombies to madmen with chainsaws. 

What to Know: Admission is $20 per person, and like Creamy Acres, it includes admission to each themed area. It’s rated “very scary” for its horror movie-like effects.

Thinking Outside the Haunted House

Maybe haunted hayrides and houses aren’t your thing, but there are plenty of other local treasures to visit this Halloween. How about a ghost tour? There are events in Philadelphia and throughout South Jersey, including:

Ghost tour of PhiladelphiaDon’t forget your flashlight when taking a ghost tour – it will be dark before you know it! Photo Credit: Flickr.

Is a haunted amusement park more your style? Many New Jersey and Pennsylvania amusement parks celebrate Halloween in style. Adults and older children can enjoy events like Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure, Halloween Haunt at Dorney Park, and Hersheypark in the Dark. Young children can enjoy fright-free Halloween fun at parks like Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township. If you’re not ready for a day trip, how about a round of Spooky Mini Golf at Historic Philadelphia’s Franklin Square?

There’s truly something for everyone in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region this season. Halloween should be fun – and safe – for all ages, so why not go out and have a great time while supporting our local businesses and charities?

If we missed your favorite Halloween attraction, let us know!

 

Catching Counterfeits: Does Your Doctor Know Where Your Meds Are Coming From?

By Richard Console on October 2, 2014 - Comments off

Counterfeit medications are a growing problem in the United States – and not only for patients. Even your doctor might not be able to distinguish between the real medicine and useless, or harmful, fakes.

Counterfeit medicationsWhy bother making fake medicines? Counterfeit drugs are a multibillion dollar industry, and the makers who are caught and convicted often face little jail time, USA Today reported. Photo Credit: Flickr.

The ongoing problem of counterfeit medications has prompted the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new campaign educating physicians across the nation on the risk of counterfeit drugs and urging them to “Know Your Source.” The FDA hopes that by buying medications only from state-licensed wholesale drug distributors, doctors can avoid an increasing number of “rogue” wholesalers who might provide fake medications at deeply discounted prices, MSN reported. The end goal is to keep counterfeit drugs out of patients’ medicine cabinets and their bodies.

What’s Wrong with Fake Meds?

Counterfeit prescription drugs can hurt patients in one of two ways. Some are actively harmful. They contain substances and chemicals that are toxic to your body. A few of the more disturbing contaminants found in counterfeit drugs include arsenic, lead, mercury, rat poison, antifreeze, floor wax, and paint thinner. Ingesting these chemicals, either once or on an ongoing basis, can cause irreversible damage. Some of these fake drugs are deadly.

Other counterfeit drugs may not be directly detrimental to your health, but their inefficiency can still prove dangerous. Treating a real medical condition with a fake drug that has no medicinal properties is basically the same as ignoring it. A patient with heart health risks could die if the medication given to reduce the likelihood of a heart attack is fake – and counterfeit versions of drugs like Plavix are unfortunately common, CNN reported. Counterfeit drugs for treating cancer have been uncovered in numerous states across the country. Receiving one or more of these fakes instead of the real drug with proven medical effectiveness could mean that patients who are already fighting for their lives face yet another hurdle.

The Extent of the Counterfeit Medication Problem

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about counterfeit drugs and the massive harm they cause. An estimated 100,000 people die each year from counterfeit medications across the world, CNN reported in 2012. Given that the FDA has only now decided to launch its Know Your Source campaign, I think it’s safe to assume that the problem hasn’t improved.

Compared to many other countries, we’re fortunate here in the United States. Globally, around 10 percent of all medications are counterfeits (or at least, they were as of 2012), but just one percent of medicines in the U.S. are. Yet the comparatively low number of counterfeit drugs floating around our country’s pharmacies is still too high, and people die as a result. The number of deaths has increased in recent years. Between 2007 and 2008, counterfeit versions of a single blood-thinning medication killed nearly 150 Americans. Fake heparin was certainly not the only counterfeit drug on the market in those years – it was just the most publicized.

Add to the worrying numbers of known deaths the reality that deaths from counterfeit drugs often go unreported. Drugs that are more widely used, or those that might not be so easily linked to the death – like cancer and heart medicines – have the potential to harm countless patients. Every medication has risks, but patients should never have to worry that their doctor-prescribed medicine is counterfeit and that it will allow serious medical conditions to continue untreated or even potentially poison them.

 

Paid Sick Time Becomes Political in NJ and Other States

By Richard Console on September 30, 2014 - Comments off

When workers get sick, they too often have to go into work anyway, trudging unproductively and infectiously through their workday when they should be home resting. These workers don’t have sick time, or they don’t have enough sick time, to take off of work. Staying home sick could prevent them from being able to support themselves and their families. Without meaning to, these employees put everyone they come into contact with at risk: coworkers, customers, and even motorists on the road.

Sick workerOne quarter of employees go to work sick and one third wait until they are fully experiencing symptoms (and have already been contagious) to stay home, according to NSF International. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

There’s a pretty easy way to put an end to this risk: allow workers a reasonable amount of paid sick days. Unfortunately, too many employers still won’t do so – and that’s why the labor issue is quickly turning into a political issue, cropping up in legislation in cities and states everywhere.

The Rise of Paid Sick Leave Laws

Paid sick leave is becoming a topic of interest across the country. In Oregon, major victories in two cities have encouraged supporters to seek statewide laws guaranteeing employees the right to rack up paid sick hours, The Register-Guard reported. California just passed such a statewide law this month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Right here at home, a number of large cities throughout New Jersey – East Orange, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, and Paterson – have already adopted paid sick leave laws, NJ.com reported. Connecticut is ahead of the times, having had mandatory paid sick leave laws in place statewide since 2012. These laws mandate that employees be allowed to earn paid sick time. Some of them extend the benefit even to part-time workers, and many establish caps on how much sick time employees can earn.

Opposition to mandatory paid sick leave laws usually has little to do with the concept of paid sick leave, and much more to do with whether the government should force employers to provide the benefit. Virtually everyone agrees that paid sick leave for workers is a good thing – and not just for ill employees. When workers come in sick, they increase risks for everyone around them.

The Risks of Working While Sick

The coworkers of a contagious employee are the people who are most obviously at risk. Illnesses can pass through entire workplaces, especially when employees work in close quarters. A cough or sneeze can carry germs. Diseases can easily be spread in common areas, like break room kitchens or conference rooms.

It’s not only fellow employees who are unnecessarily exposed to germs when an employee works while sick. Customers or clients can also be infected. The risk is particularly worrying when the employee works with food, in a restaurant or food processing plant, or if he or she works in the healthcare field and encounters patients with compromised immune systems. Would you want an ill employee cooking your dinner or caring for your elderly loved one in a nursing home? I certainly wouldn’t.

Working while ill can even raise risks unrelated to the spread of germs. When you’re so sick that you really should be home in bed, you’re not functioning at your best. You’re distracted. You might have a hard time focusing or even staying awake. Some of the medications you take to help you feel better can make you drowsy or dizzy. If you have a physical job, you could accidentally hurt yourself or someone else. Your lack of focus could create an unsafe environment for coworkers or customers. Even if you sit at a desk all day, you could endanger everyone else on the road just while driving to and from work if your attention is elsewhere or if you are under the influence of potentially dangerous medicines.

Recently, calls for upping the minimum wage have captured national attention, but in many states and municipalities, paid sick leave laws are just as important, if not as publicized. Many people here in New Jersey support these laws and the ways they can help not only workers but families, The Courier-Post reported. When you consider the very real risks of employees trying to work while sick, it becomes easy to see how paid sick leave for all workers can benefit everyone in our communities. Our workers shouldn’t have to choose between supporting their families and recovering from an illness, and our workplaces and roads should be as safe as possible for everyone using them.

 

 

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