Parents and pupils urged to prioritise safety before and during matric vacations
The matric class of 2016 have reached the end of their final exams; the culmination of 12 years of hard work. Many pupils will be celebrating this well-deserved milestone with a vacation, commonly known matric vac, which is seen by many as a rite of passage into a new chapter of their lives.
Mande Toubkin, general manager: emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment at Netcare, says that even though matrics have finished school and are now seen as adults, their parents and guardians still have a responsibility to educate them on safety. This includes ensuring that these young adults are aware of road and vehicle safety, as well as the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, as they embark on their celebratory post-matric getaways.
“Even if your matriculating young man or woman has obtained a driver’s licence, at such a young age they are still considered to be inexperienced drivers as they have at best been driving legally for only a few months. Chances are, they have never driven a long distance before,” says Toubkin.
“This means that they might overlook important things that more experienced drivers are well aware of, such as the importance of vehicle maintenance, tyre care and taking adequate breaks on long road trips to prevent driver fatigue. Inexperienced drivers often have yet to learn what it means to ‘think for other drivers’ and it is therefore essential that they be reminded of the importance of constant vigilance while behind the wheel,” she cautions.
Most matric vacations entail parties and exploring the ‘night life’ of the destination, which can lead to teenagers being exposed to drugs and alcohol, often for the first time or without knowing it, for example, if someone spikes their drinks. A high proportion of injuries sustained during matric vacations are related to consumption of drugs or alcohol, some of which, sadly, are fatal.
“Aside from the temptations that alcohol and drugs may present, parties where substances are used may lead to a variety of dangerous situations,” warns Toubkin. “It is therefore imperative that young people are vigilant to the dangers, and that they know how to identify potentially hostile or perilous situations,” she adds.
“When a person is intoxicated because of drug or alcohol use their judgement and reflexes become impaired. This can lead to a person acting out of character and doing irresponsible things, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or picking an argument with other individuals.
“Criminals can more easily target people who are inebriated. Therefore encourage young people to remain vigilant and not go out alone. Sticking together with trustworthy friends while partying is advisable as ‘safety in numbers’ can offer considerable protection.
David Stanton, head of clinical leadership at Netcare 911, has extensive experience in training and educating young people in the field of emergency medical care. He says that knowledge can empower the youth to better protect themselves in dangerous situations.
“Even though you might be bursting at the seams with excitement and happiness, it is important to remember that your safety always comes first. There are many ways to educate yourself and it may save your life,” is Stanton’s advice to young people.
“Take time to familiarise yourself with the emergency procedures and contingency plans of the places that you will be visiting, such as the hotel or lodge where you will be staying, the malls you shop at and the beaches you visit. By doing this, you will know what to do and where to go for help in an emergency,” he adds.
Useful tips from Netcare and Netcare 911 for matrics on staying safe during their matric vacation:
- Ensure that your parents have the contact details of at least two friends who are joining you on vacation, as well as their parents’ contact details.
- Ensure that your parents know the name and address of the guesthouse, hotel or resort where you will be staying.
- Ensure that you have an up-to-date first aid kit handy and make sure emergency services contact numbers, such as Netcare 911’s telephone number 082 911, are saved on your cellphone.
- Download the mySOS app and upload all the necessary details so that emergency services, including paramedics, can easily retrieve your location and other important information from the app should you find yourself in an emergency.
On the road
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and do not get into a car driven by an intoxicated person.
- Regardless of whether you know how to drive or not, it is against the law to drive without a driver’s licence. Make sure that whoever is driving is licensed to do so.
- Ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy and that it has undergone all the necessary maintenance and safety checks.
- Do not let your friends distract you while you are driving. Distractions could include loud music, physical distractions or loud talking and singing.
- Driving tired is just as bad as driving drunk. Remember to stop at least every two hours to stretch your legs and rest a little. Always do so in public places where there are many people around.
- Make use of a taxi if you are unfamiliar with the area.
At a party
- If you are at a party, make sure that you always buy your own drink and never leave your drink unattended. In fact, try to only drink sealed bottled drinks.
- If a boy or a girl offers to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar. Do not accept anything to drink or eat from anyone you do not know well.
- Never take drugs. If someone offers you any form of medication or pills, refuse it.
- Trust your instinct: if you feel unsafe, scared or uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation as fast as you can.
- Never go out alone at night. Always take at least two friends with you and stay with the group.
At the beach
- Always adhere to the rules applicable at the specific beach. Only swim within the beacons set out by the lifeguards.
- Never swim when you are under the influence of alcohol.
- Do not go swimming if the ocean is visibly rough.
- Do not go walking on the beach at night, especially if it is deserted, or go swimming at night.
- Never go swimming alone and, when you do go swimming, make sure that you tell your friends where you will be swimming and how long you intend to be.
- Always wear sunscreen and try to limit your exposure to the sun to avoid sunburn and heat stroke.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Do not drink alcohol, as it has a dehydrating effect.