How to stay safe in a crazy, mixed-up world

Published 9:17 am Friday, May 30, 2014

Things I Tell My Wife by Matthew Knutson

“There’s a car coming,” I said to my wife and her siblings as we began to say goodbye in the Ethiopian restaurant’s parking lot.

They were too caught up in their conversation to recognize the sound of a rapidly approaching car, so I fulfilled my natural role of safety officer and alerted them of impending doom.

Email newsletter signup

Sera’s youngest sister recently admitted that she didn’t know how the family survived before I married Sera. There certainly wasn’t anyone looking out for cars before I arrived.

Safety has been a priority of mine since fifth grade where I proudly served as a captain for the Lincoln Elementary School crossing guards. That reflective orange vest, walkie-talkie, and bright, orange crossing flag gave me all the power in the world, and I did not take my job lightly. We had one goal: Get our fellow students to the other side of the street safely, and we did it well.

Flash forward 15 years, and I’m still the person in a crowd who is very aware of his surroundings and potential hazards. Needless to say, when I recently discovered that June was National Safety Month, I knew what I’d be writing about this week.

The National Safety Council has outlined each week of June with a different safety focus in order to reduce risk in our everyday lives. Because it doesn’t hurt to refresh ourselves, here’s a brief overview of each week.


Week 1: Prevent prescription drug abuse

Initially I thought this was a pretty specific focus for National Safety Month, but after doing some research, it’s become clear that this is a real problem. Did you know that according to the CDC, enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate each American adult every four hours for one month? That’s a ton of medication.

To reduce the amount of prescriptions needed in your home, the NSC recommends taking care of yourself by doing back stretches, exercising regularly and cutting out cigarettes. Preventative care reduces the number of unused prescriptions sitting in medicine cabinets across the county, meaning fewer opportunities for abuse will occur. Proper disposal of excess medication is also recommended.

Check with your local pharmacy to determine where your expired or unused medication can be disposed.


Week 2: Stop slips, trips and falls

If each week had a sponsor, this week would likely be sponsored by our friends over at Life Alert. By strengthening your core doing yoga or pilates, your likelihood of falling may go down. If you’re naturally clumsy, you’ll probably fall while you attempt to do yoga or pilates. During the season of my wife’s back troubles, we gave yoga a try. That resulted in us both laughing until we cried on the living room floor. Laughter surely strengthens your core, so give that a try if you can’t maintain the downward dog pose.


Week 3: Be aware of your surroundings

This seems like the most common sense theme of the weeks to me, but maybe it isn’t for other people. I recommend you use this week to check the batteries in your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors (or buy them if you’re one of those people), recall where you keep the fire extinguisher, and come up with a plan for what to do during bad weather.


Week 4: Put an end to distracted driving

Stop being stupid while you drive. When I was learning to drive, my mom passed on the same wisdom that her father taught her about driving.

“This is not a car; this is a killing machine.” Terrifying? Yes. True? Definitely.

No phone call or text is worth you taking someone else’s life because you were distracted while driving. Turn your phone off while you’re on the road. Pull over if you need to respond to someone.

People glued to their cellphones are annoying in person, and they are intolerable when they are driving. Don’t be that person, and don’t let your friends and family be those people either.

There is a bonus week for National Safety Month that focuses on summer safety. I’ll summarize: Wear sunscreen.

I don’t expect anyone to go out and celebrate June by being extra cautious, but if my sister-in-law Clara reads this and becomes more aware of cars approaching her in the Twin Cities parking lots, I’ll call it a successful month. Be safe.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.