Kessler News

Safety First! Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation Offers Back-to-School Tips as part of National ThinkFirst® program

West Orange, N.J. – With the start of the new school year, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation ( is focusing on the increased risk of injuries among children and young adults and encouraging them to “think first” before engaging in activities or behaviors that could lead to injury.

“Each year more than 9.2 million youngsters, infants through teens are treated in emergency rooms,” noted Jeanine Valenti, director of the New Jersey ThinkFirst® program at Kessler Institute. “The most common injuries are related to motor vehicle accidents, whether being a passenger or being struck by a car when crossing the street or chasing a ball into traffic. However, about 8,000 children visit the ER each day due to falls on playground equipment, bicycles or stairs.1 And while we can’t prevent every injury, we can provide children with the knowledge and understanding to help minimize their risks.”

Since 1992, Kessler has been the New Jersey center for the national ThinkFirst program ( This important program is designed to promote smart choices and safe behaviors among young people. Presentations are available free-of-charge to schools and are geared to students at different grade levels. Topics range from pedestrian and motor vehicle safety to playground, cycling, sports and water safety, as well as falls and violence prevention.

One of the highlights of the program is “Voices for Injury Prevention,” a group of speakers who have sustained a brain, spinal cord or other traumatic injury and share their stories of how one poor decision changed their lives forever.

“Our goal is to encourage students to rely on their knowledge and understanding and act accordingly. In other words, we want them to use their minds to protect their bodies,” said Valenti.

To remind children and adults just how important it is to “Think First,” Kessler Institute, one of the nation’s top rehabilitation hospitals, offers these basic tips:

  • First and foremost: Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t let peer pressure influence your decisions.
  • In the car: Always wear a seat belt, and younger children should be in a properly installed car seat. Younger, less experienced drivers are reminded to stay focused on the road, be aware of traffic signals and pedestrians, and avoid taking risks when behind the wheel. And NEVER text or talk when driving.
  • On the street: Stop, look and listen, then cross at the crosswalk.
  • On bikes, skateboards, skis or snowboards: Always wear a properly fitted helmet.
  • On the playground: Become familiar with equipment before using, and be aware of others around you in order to avoid being hit, tripped or injured.
  • Around the yard: Never run out into the street to chase a ball or catch up with a friend.
  • On the field: Play it safe. Stop playing if you have any signs of injury or discomfort, and seek medical attention.
  • In school and at home: Don’t run or fool around on stairways and never push anyone to get out of the way.

Finally, remember that the choices are yours. Thinking about and adopting smart, safe behaviors can help people of all ages avoid injuries.

For information about ThinkFirst or to schedule a presentation, contact Jeanine Valenti, Chapter Administrator, at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, 973.289.9717 or



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