Risk taking by teens doesn’t just occur when they are driving recklessly or engaging in substance abuse, said Schwebel, who is also the director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab. Experimentation with items designed primarily for adult use, such as guns, or dangers in the home like exposed electrical wires also can make a home a dangerous place for teens. More than 30 percent of fatal teen injuries occur in the home. In fact, unintentional cuts, poisonings, burns and falls result in more than 300,000 annual emergency room visits for 15- and 16-year-olds, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
In January, Schwebel published a small study in the journal International Emergency Nursing description in which he examined more than 40 homes with teens ranging in age from 14 to 16. The study found that nearly 30 percent of the homes had easily accessible firearms present, and of those, 20 percent were loaded with ammunition. More than 30 percent of the homes had alcohol that was not locked away. Six percent of the homes had fireworks present, and in all cases, the fireworks were kept in unlocked locations.
Schwebel offers parents the following tips to make their homes safer for teens:
• Keep firearms safely stored, unloaded and in locked places where teens can’t access them without parent supervision.
• Keep fireworks safely stored where teens can’t access them without supervision.
• Keep both indoor and outdoor stairways free of clutter and handrails in working order.
• Keep alcohol in locked locations where teens can’t access them.
• Keep working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home.