Injuries state-by-state and by the numbers

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If you are a resident of the great state of New Mexico and get injured, “The Force” will DEFINITELY need to be with you, for the self-styled “Land of Enchantment” (hey, that’s its nickname!) is home to the highest rate of injury-related deaths in the U.S. at a rate of 97.8 per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 57.9 per 100,000 Americans who die in injury-related fatalities annually.

By contrast, if you live in New Jersey, be thankful, for “The Garden State” (never mind all those chemical plants and refineries!) sports the lowest rate of injury-related deaths at 36.1 per 100,000.

Those and many more interesting safety factoids are part of a new report, The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, compiled by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which also determined that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.

Not surprisingly, many of those “injury prevention policies” revolve around vehicle safety in the view of those two groups and others as well.

“Seat belt laws, [motorcycle] helmet laws, and drunk driving laws plus a range of other strong prevention policies and initiatives are reducing injury rates around the country,” noted Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance

“However, we could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies,” she stressed. “Lack of national capacity and funding are major barriers to states adopting these and other policies.”

[Here’s one tactic being used by the Minnesota State Patrol to try and reduce highway-related injuries and fatalities, particularly among young drivers.]

According to this new report, approximately 50 million Americans are medically treated for injuries each year with more than 2.8 million hospitalized. Nearly 12,000 children and teens die from injuries resulting from accidents each year and around 9.2 million are treated in emergency rooms. Every year, injuries generate $406 billion in lifetime costs for medical care and lost productivity, the study found.

The report also found that many injury prevention activities have been scientifically shown to reduce harm and deaths. For instance:

  • Seat belts saved an estimated 69,000 lives from 2006 to 2010; 
  • Motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 8,000 lives from 2005 to 2009;
  • Child safety seats saved around 1,800 lives from 2005 to 2009;
  • The number of children and teens killed in motor vehicle crashes dropped 41% from 2000 to 2009; and
  • School-based programs to prevent violence have cut violent behavior among high school students by 29%.

Yet the injury research conducted by TFAH and RWJF concludes that far more can be done. For example:

  • 29 states do not require bicycle helmets for all children;
  • 17 states do not require that children ride in a car seat or booster seat to at least the age of eight;
  • 31 states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders;
  • 34 states and Washington, D.C. do not require mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers;
  • 18 states do not have primary seat belt laws;
  • 44 states scored a "B" or lower on a teen dating violence law review by the Break the Cycle organization; and
  • 14 states do not have strong youth sport concussion safety laws.

The report also found that funding for injury prevention funding among the states is in decline, according to data tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Right now, such funding averages only 28 cents per American, a decline of 24% from fiscal years 2006 to 2011, while only 31 states have full-time injury and violence prevention directors – something the CDC believes limits injury prevention efforts. 

“While tremendous progress has been made in preventing and treating injury, it remains a leading cause of death for people of all ages and the number one cause of death for children,” explained Dr. Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for injury research and policy.

“Texting while driving, the increasing numbers of falls in older adults, domestic violence and the astonishing rise in misuse of prescription drugs mean we need to redouble our efforts to make safety research and policy a national priority,” she stressed.

We’ll see how that develops as this new report gets more widely disseminated among the policy makers in Washington D.C. as well as in the state legislatures across the U.S. 

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