In so many ways, a safer world

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

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A couple of us oldsters were recently reminiscing over how things have changed during the past 60 years. Such discussions are invariably nostalgic, at least until we begin to objectively evaluate life back then and compare it with today.

The truth is, life is safer day-to-day now than it was back then. Seriously, until some wacko whips out a large magazine gun and starts randomly shooting people, it generally is safer today.

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An example. Anne and I have had an old Mustang for a couple of years and we love driving in on warm, sunny days. But I’m going to be honest, I feel almost naked with nothing but a lap seatbelt around me. When that car was built, seatbelts were optional (I don’t believe this one had any).

And today there are still people who believe it is a government intrusion to require you to wear one. Many of those same people, of course, would be willing to accept whatever government help is needed to endure the rest of their life as a paraplegic following an accident in which they weren’t using one.

Seatbelts (now harnesses) are just the beginning of a safer world. Air bags, better tires, better suspension, better brakes, better head and signal lights and, of course, better highways, have all reduced the number of deaths and serious injuries per-capita on the highway since the “good old days” of our youth.

Not only that, but we live in far safer houses. The basic construction of houses, particularly fire stops and Electrical Code requirements, have made our homes much less prone to serious fire damage. Grounded electrical systems, for example, were virtually unheard of until the mid 20th-century.

Inside our homes, better heating systems, appliances with timed cutoffs and “tip-over” safety cutoffs make an accidental fire less likely, and fire retardant materials make everything from children’s clothing to draperies far safer than they were.

And if a fire does start, we have smoke detectors to alert us to the danger — assuming we remembered to change the batteries twice a year.

Child-proof medicine bottles have saved untold numbers of lives. Of course, they frustrate we arthritic seniors, but we can receive pills in old-fashioned, easy to open bottles if we choose.

I can remember a time when any painter worth his salt would tell you that unless house paint contained a substantial amount of lead, it wasn’t any good. But not long after that, the seriousness of lead poisoning, particularly among children exposed to lead paint, became a national issue. Today, you can’t buy leaded paint, and we’re all better off for its disappearance.

Then, there are lawn mowers. When I was a kid, the only kind of mower starter most of us had ever seen was a piece of rope that was wrapped around a drum above the flywheel and jerked. Once the old push mower started, it ran until you shorted out the spark plug (and don’t try do do that with your bare feet). Today, mowers, riding or push variety, come with safety switches that turn the engine off when you turn loose the handle or step off the mower. It can be truly aggravating, but it’s also truly safer.