Air bags save lives.
However, two things must be kept in mind regarding the deployment of your air bag during a crash: (1) the air bag is a supplemental safety device; and (2) safety precautions must be taken to minimize the risk of your air bag actually causing injury during deployment.
The primary restraint system in all vehicles are the lap and shoulder belts. As a secondary, or supplemental safety device, air bags work best when all passengers are properly buckled, secured and restrained in their seats. Safety belts must be used with air bags. When this is done, the risk of injury or death from a motor vehicle crash is greatly reduced.
Overall, air bags add to the protection offered by seat belts. But what about the stories of air bag deployments causing serious injuries? The chances of this occurring are extremely remote. Air bags, when used in conjunction with safety belts, prevent far more injuries and deaths than they cause. But certain safety precautions must be observed.
In order to do its job cushioning the impact of crash in a mere fraction of a second, air bags come out of the dashboard at up to 200 miles per hour. This force can injure those who are too close to the air bag's deployed space. Therefore, it's essential that the occupants are properly positioned in their seats in order to create a safe distance -- at least 10 inches -- between them and the air bag.
It's for this reason that the Florida Highway Patrol and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put out safety tips designed to substantially reduce the risk of injuries from air bags. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office urges all motorists to review the safety tips below and keep them in mind when getting behind the wheel, sitting as a passenger in a moving vehicle or restraining young children inside a vehicle.
- Safety belts must be used with air bags. That means everyone should buckle up with both lap and shoulder belts on every trip.
- If you're driving, move your seat to the rear as far as you can while still being able to reach the pedals and essential controls comfortably.
- Slightly recline the back of the seat. If reclining the back of your seat makes it hard to see the road, raise the seat if your vehicle has that feature. If your vehicle doesn't have that feature, raise your body by using a firm, non-slippery cushion.
- If your steering wheel is adjustable, tilt it downward. This will point the air bag towards your chest instead of your head and neck.
- Adult passengers also should ride at least 10 inches from the air bag. Children 12-years-old and younger should ride in the back seat, away from the air bag.
- Children are safest when they're belted properly in the back seat of a car. This is especially so in vehicles that are equipped with a passenger-side air bag. Never put a rear-facing child restraint in front of an air bag.
- When trying out a new, used or leased vehicle, consider the vehicle's safety features and controls and how they interact with the air bags to ensure maximum protection for you and your passengers.
Buckle Up For Safety: It's The Law
Tragically, some traffic accidents are unavoidable. However, wearing your seat belt will help prevent needless injuries in many important ways. For instance, safety devices help prevent ejection in a crash, allow the body to slow down gradually and also help to protect the head and spinal cord.
With terrorism and other global events weighing on all of our minds, it's easy to become distracted while on the road. So please remember: Florida law makes failure to wear a seat belt a secondary offense. That means any driver who's pulled over for another violation and is found to not be buckled up can be issued a seat belt citation. More importantly, motorists and their passengers who don't use their seat belts are needlessly risking injury and death.
The Morris Police Department is committed to the safety of our citizens and the motoring public. Buckling up isn't a choice. It's the law, and it saves lives!
Beware of Financial Exploitation
Taking financial advantage of an individual is a despicable act that can rob victims of their independence and ability to afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, rent payments and medicine. It's also a crime and should be reported promptly to law enforcement.
Unfortunately, financial exploitation often goes unreported or is reported long after the damage is done. When that happens, the suspect is far more likely to get away with the crime and move on to other victims. You may know someone - perhaps a friend, family member or loved one - who is potentially vulnerable to financial exploitation. Here are a few signs to watch for:
- The person is making numerous checks or withdrawals for escalating amounts of money.
- The person begins to act very secretively. (Con artists often try to isolate their victims to avoid detection by telling the victim not to let anybody know about the calls.)
- The person is having sudden problems paying bills or buying food or other necessities.
If you notice any of these signs or suspect someone you know may be a victim of financial exploitation, please contact your nearest law enforcement agency immediately. Then help the victim assemble any financial information or records that could help law enforcement investigate the case and arrest the culprit.
Beware of Expensive 1-900 Telephone Numbers
Those 1-900 numbers are proliferating like crazy, offering a vast array of information, products and services at your fingertips.
A word of caution: Many of these 1-900 numbers are nothing more than scams designed to steal your money. Here's how they work:
1-900 numbers are pay-per-call services. That means that you pay for the call based on the amount of time you stay on the line. Some of these 1-900 services are legitimate. But many are not, and rather than offering an important service or product you may need or want, their sole purpose is to keep you on the phone as long as possible. If you get caught in this trap, it can cost you dearly on your next phone bill.
Charges for 1-900 calls are set by these companies themselves, not by the government or the telephone company. In the hands of unscrupulous telephone solicitors, this is practically a license to steal. Be wary of services that don't tell you exactly how much the call will cost for each minute. Often, these calls have built in delays and automated messages designed to do nothing but extend the duration of the call. Some 1-900 numbers actually put the caller on hold and make you wait for the information.
You will be billed for all of this call time, and it generally will take expensive minutes waiting for the information.
Another common 1-900 scam is to send letters telling people they've won a guaranteed prize and directing them to call a 1-900 number to claim the prize. Generally, the prizes are worth a dollar or two. If that happens, you've just been taken. That's because the call could cost you $25 or more.
The best advice is to avoid these services altogether. However, if you decide to dial a 1-900 number, there are a few things you should know first: When you dial a 1-900 number, you should hear the company's name, a description of the information, goods or services being offered and the per-minute cost of the call. After hearing this information, you also should be given a few seconds to hang up the phone before the per-minute charges start accruing.
Bills for 1-900 calls should tell you who to contact if you believe there's a problem. They also should provide you with a local or toll-free number that you can call to dispute the charges.
And finally, if problems persist, you can ask your local telephone company to put a block on your phone to prevent it from being used to make 1-900 calls.
Beware of Travel Scams
Here's how it usually starts: You get a phone call from a travel club informing you that you've won the top prize in their contest. You're so excited at the news of winning that it doesn't occur to you that you never entered the contest to begin with.
Other times, you're shopping around for vacation ideas when those glossy brochures, low-cost travel deals and travel clubs begin to tempt you. Either way, the advice is the same: Be a careful consumer by getting it in writing and checking out the details of any travel offer before paying anything.
Many travel packages are legitimate and offer a good service and a good value. However, people have found themselves targeted by an increasing number of travel clubs and vacation scams.
There are a variety of travel scams making the rounds. Many of them pressure residents into joining travel clubs with inducements such as free prizes and discounted vacation rates. The problem with many of these offers is that the memberships fees can be very expensive and not worth the cost of joining, the prizes are worthless or come with so many restrictions on when you can travel that they are virtually uncollectible.
Other problems that have been reported: The discounts aren't what was promised, accommodations sometimes are substandard or the deals are stacked with hidden charges such as airfare, departure taxes, transfer fees, administrative costs or upgrade fees. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a travel scam:
- Beware of solicitors who insist that you must rush you decision or that this is your last chance to decide. High-pressure sales tactics requiring an immediate decision is characteristic of a scam. Any offer that's only good for one day is probably a scam.
- Insist on written verification before you book your travel plans. Read the verification carefully.
- Be wary of membership benefits that sound too good to be true.
- Stay away from companies that appear to have no permanent address. One indication of this is when all presentations or meetings are held in rented conference rooms.
- Ask about any extra charges, such as port taxes or service fees.
- Beware of notifications claiming you have won a "free" trip. Often, these "free" trips include hidden costs or require expensive purchases. Prizes should not include fees or processing charges.
- Beware of solicitors who describe the details of the membership in overly broad and general terms and will only provide you with a contract for your review after you've signed something.
- Beware of solicitors who won't give you the name of the cruise line, hotel or airline included in a travel package.
- Be suspicious of companies that require you to wait at least 60 days before taking your trip.
- Make sure you are aware of any restrictions. Generally, the best travel deals are only available for off-peak times. You may find it difficult to get the promised price for the dates that you want to travel.
- Request full, written disclosure of the seller's refund and cancellation policies.
- If you decide to take advantage of a special travel offer, don't pay for the package until you receive complete details about it in writing.
- Pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if the promises aren't kept.
- When in doubt, book your vacation through a well-established travel agency.
Remember: Other than hanging up, the best way to defend yourself against questionable calls is to ask the caller to send you information in writing. The use of high-pressure sales tactics often is the sign of a con artist at work.
Charitable Donations: Give Wisely
By telephone, in person, outside the grocery or department store or through the mail, we all receive numerous appeals to give to a variety of organizations and causes. And for many, the holidays are a time to donate money to those less fortunate.
While it's important to contribute to charitable causes, the decision to give is a personal one. But before you decide, you should take some precautions to make sure that the charity is legitimate. That's because the holidays in particular are a time when con artists are cooking up schemes designed to take advantage of your generosity and giving spirit.
Telling the difference between a legitimate solicitation and a scam isn't always easy. However, some common-sense do's and don'ts will help you avoid a charity scam. For instance, often times you may be asked to donate to a local family in need that may have lost their possessions in a fire or natural disaster. In these cases, a trustee is required to open a trust account in order to solicit donations. If you decide to contribute, it's best to give by check, made payable to the trust fund and not an individual.
Sometimes, you may be asked to give to an organization whose name is very similar to other well-known organizations. Are these organizations the same or somehow related? Or is one totally unrelated to the cause of the other, but just trying to capitalize on another's organization's good name? And what if you've never heard of the organization that's soliciting you for a donation?
You also should know that charitable organizations often will contract with professional fundraisers to solicit on their behalf. If that's the case, then a portion of the contributions collected on behalf of the organization will pay the expenses of the fundraiser. And that will affect the percentage of the organization's funds that directly benefit the program or charity you are giving to.
Here, then, are some guidelines and suggestions to consider before deciding whether to donate to a charity:
- Make sure you know who is asking for the money and how they plan to spend it. Ask questions, and don't contribute until you're satisfied with the answers.
- Be wary of emotional appeals.
- Ask the person seeking your donation whether he or she is a volunteer or paid solicitor.
- Florida law gives you the right to receive a copy of the organization's financial report before giving. Ask for it.
- Every organization has some administrative and fundraising costs. Most organizations can't function on volunteer help alone, and they must spend money to raise money. Before contributing, examine the percentage of total revenue that goes for administrative costs, such as salaries and fundraising efforts. Then compare that amount with the percentage of revenue that goes towards the organization's programs and services. Do the administrative costs seem too high? Does the amount going toward the organization's programs seem appropriate? Make sure you feel comfortable with the figures before deciding to give.
- Not all organizations soliciting money in the name of philanthropy are true charities eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Ask for the group's federal tax-exempt number. If the group doesn't have one, you won't be able to legitimately claim your contribution as a tax deduction.
- If the solicitation is for a law enforcement charity, ask the nearest law enforcement agency if they've ever heard of the group. If they haven't, chances are it's a scam.
- Never give cash. Contribute by check that is payable only to the organization, not to an individual.
- Never give your credit card, bank account or Social Security number to a telephone solicitor. Instead, ask to have information on making a donation mailed to you.
Crime Prevention Tips for the Disabled
As we grow into our senior years, our bodies and senses change over time. Changes in hearing, vision, flexibility and mobility all are a natural and unavoidable part of the aging process. But that doesn't mean people with disabilities are incapable of protecting themselves.
It's especially important for people with disabilities to take common sense safety precautions to reduce their vulnerability. If you have a disability or know someone who does, the following safety tips will be helpful to you. Please take the time to read the information: It just may prevent you, a friend or a loved one from becoming a crime victim.
Whenever possible, travel with someone you know. There's strength in numbers.
Have a plan for what you will do if confronted. Show confidence, yell, use a body alarm or whistle or find some other way to make noise. Be realistic about your limitations. Avoid places or situations that put you at risk, such as dark alleys and unlit parking lots.
- Avoid establishing predictable activity patterns. Most of us have daily routines, but never varying them may increase your vulnerability to crime.
- If you use a wheelchair or other adaptive device, keep money and personal items hidden from view, but easily accessible to you. Use a fanny pack or pocket attached to the wheelchair arm rather than bags attached to the rear of the chair.
- Have emergency phone numbers and a means of contacting emergency assistance available and accessible to you at all times.
- Plan an escape route from each room in your residence to use in case of emergency.
- Make sure doors have peepholes or viewing areas at a level that allows you to view visitors.
- Put good locks on all your doors and windows. Use them while you're home as well when you're out.
- Never open the door for a stranger. Ask for proof of who they are and the purpose of their visit. If you are visually impaired and unable to see the person's official identification, verify by checking the person's identity with their agency.
- Never tell a stranger calling by phone that you are alone or disabled.
- When riding a bus, sit as close to the driver as possible.
- Always carry your medical information in case of an emergency.
- If you have a speech or hearing impairment, carry a card of communication symbols to ensure that you can be understood by others.
- If you have difficulty speaking, have a friend record a message giving your name, address and type of disability to use in emergencies. Keep the tape in a recorder next to your phone.
Don't be Fooled by Phony Health Claims
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We've all heard this common adage repeated time and time again as a warning sign designed to help us spot all sorts of con artists and scams. But the expression also is good to keep in mind when evaluating health claims as well. The sad fact is that consumers trying to improve their health waste billions of dollars on unproven and fraudulently marketed health care products.
Some of these products could in fact be harmful. Others are simply useless. Worse yet, those with serious health problems may be throwing away money on unproven products with little or no clinical benefits and wasting valuable time in the process that should be spent seeking proper medical treatment. It seems as though there is no shortage of huksters out there who will promise you a medical miracle in exchange for money. These con artists prey on the emotions of the sick and elderly as well as family members and caregivers who will spare no expense in their desperate search for a cure.
In most cases, what these con artists are selling is nothing more than false hope in a bottle. It is for that reason that the Federal Trade Commission has developed a list of tips, phrases and marketing techniques that will help you spot a phony health claim. Be wary if:
- The product is advertised as a quick and effective cure-all for a wide range of ailments.
- The promoters use words like scientific breakthrough, miracle cure, exclusive product, secret ingredient or ancient remedy.
- The text utilizes impressive-sounding medical terminology used t disguise a lack of good science.
- The promoter claims the government, the medical profession or research scientists have conspired to suppress the product and keep it out of the marketplace.
- The advertisement includes undocumented case histories claiming amazing results.
- The product is advertised as being available from only one source.
- Payment is required in advance.
- The promoter promises a no-risk, money-back guarantee. Many so-called fly-by-night operators are not around to respond to your request
for a refund.
- A health care clinic requires patients to travel and stay far from home in order to receive treatment.
- While many clinics offer effective treatments, some prescribe untested, unapproved, ineffective and possibly dangerous remedies. Also, physicians who work in such clinics may be unlicensed or lack the appropriate credentials.
- A dietary supplement claims to treat, prevent or cure a disease. Don't be taken in by these false and exaggerated claims, unproven products and miracle cures: check all claims, seek independent verification and consult a medical professional before buying or using any health care product. The extra time will be well-spent in helping you to avoid becoming a victim of a phony health claim.
Don't be Fooled by a Phony Utility Worker