Accidental Death Rate Hits 11-Year High, Group Says
April 25, 2000 (Washington) -- The U.S. death toll from accidents in the home and office and on the highway is at its highest level in more than a decade, and a nonprofit group called the National Safety Council has launched a campaign do something about it.
More Americans between the ages of 1 and 44 die from accidents than from any other cause, the council says. Last year, accidents killed 95,500 Americans -- the highest accidental death toll since 1988 -- and seriously injured another 20 million.
"This level of unintentional injury and death is a shame, in the purest sense of the word," Jerry Scanlan, the council's president and chief executive officer, said at a news conference here Tuesday announcing its Safety Agenda for the Nation.
The Safety Agenda calls for "common-sense solutions and actions," combining education and research and leading to voluntary changes -- or, where necessary, new laws. The council is proposing a number of partnerships to set injury and death reduction goals. The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association have already pledged their support, Scanlan says.
Among the council's other findings:
- Deaths from unintentional injuries in the home have risen 9% since 1988, to 30,000 last year.
- Highway fatalities dropped a percentage point, but still totaled 40,800 last year.
- A total of 50,000 people are expected to die from fall-related injuries by 2008.
- Fourteen people die every day in job-related accidents.
Workplace-related injuries cost the economy $127 billion dollars a year, the National Safety Council says, and it hopes to work with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and other agencies to reduce on-the-job hazards.
"No one should be asked [to take] -- and no one should tolerate -- a potentially disabling or life-threatening risk in the name of cost-cutting," Scanlan says.
To reduce the toll from falls, the National Safety Council is working with the American Association of Retired Persons to raise awareness of the problem. It's estimated that more that 24% of all people who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year of the fall.
The inaugural Safety Agenda is also focusing on highway deaths and injuries. Last year, 40,800 Americans died on the road and more than 2 million were disabled. Among the key issues here, Scanlan says, are seat belts, drunken driving, and large-truck safety.
Since three out of 10 Americans still don't wear seat belts, the council plans to start a campaign with law enforcement to crack down on offenders.
Teen drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of accidents, the council says, and they need to participate in graduated driver licensing programs, which give them a chance to improve their skills before they get full driving privileges. The council says it will push for enabling legislation around the country.
The council also plans to work for tougher laws regulating legal blood-alcohol levels in an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving deaths, now at nearly 16,000 annually.
Large-truck accidents generally claim the lives of those people riding in the other vehicle, and the council plans to partner with the Department of Transportation to find some solutions.
An important part of the agenda, the council says, is simply making Americans aware of the increasing number of preventable deaths and injuries.
"The safety agenda for the nation that we are announcing today is designed to call attention to the magnitude of our continuing injury problem," Scanlan says.