In Minnesota, where winter seems to last forever and icy walkways are everywhere, falls have become the number one cause of traumatic brain injury. Here in North Carolina, where winters are relatively warm and mercifully short, slippery surfaces can still be dangerous.
The three main slip-and-fall problems in North Carolina are that:
- We don’t expect frozen surfaces! We keep shorts and sandals available all year ’round because temperatures in the 70s are possible at any point…but down coats are a rare sight, anytime.
- Because of meteorologic factors, parts of North Carolina are prone to flash freezing, when any moisture on the ground turns to a thin layer ice.
- Ice on stairs and walkways is often invisible. (On black-top road surfaces, the thin layer of flash-freeze is called “black ice.”) If there is snow on the ground, you can see it and you automatically take safety precautions (including putting on boots with traction). But if you don’t see ice…and you don’t expect ice…then you can step out on a stairway and have your feet slip out from under you.
And the potential outcome of an icy fall is much worse than a nasty bruise or broken bone. Serious and permanent brain injuries are all too common. In fact, in 2007 the legendary writer Kurt Vonnegut suffered brain injury and died after an icy slip-and-fall. To protect your brain, learn to take safety precautions in winter:
- In the event of a snow or ice storm, apply a layer of sand or salt to sidewalks, driveways, and outdoor stairways. The rock salt (not table salt) will melt the ice, and the sand will provide traction. (NOTE: De-icing rock salt can damage concrete. To prevent damage, spread sand instead, but understand that sand will not get rid of the ice…it will only improve traction. According to “Ask the Builder” newsletter, another alternative that will let you use salt safely is to treat your concrete driveway with clear coatings of silane/siloxane.)
- Invest in a good pair of flat-soled boots or shoes with treads, and wear them if roads seem slick.
- If the weather is cold, dress appropriately. If you are cold, shivering, and distracted, you have a greater risk of losing your balance.
- In cold weather, test walkway conditions before stepping out of a car or walking down steps. If your foot slides at all, make sure you have something solid to hold onto before continuing.
Stay safe this winter season!