Report Outlines Ways to Reduce Motor Vehicle Injuries

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has compiled state-by-state injury statistics in a recently released report, which shows that seat belts saved about 69,000 lives from 2006 to 2010 and motorcycle helmets saved about 8,000 lives from 2005 to 2009.

The report, called “The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” also contains research-based recommendations from the group on what it says are preventable car-related deaths.

Laws on drunk driving and seat belt and helmet use have reduced injury rates across the U.S. but a more dramatic decrease can be achieved if those “proven” public policies are applied in more states, according to Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance (SSA).

“Lack of national capacity and funding are major barriers to states adopting these and other policies,” she said in a TFAH statement.

Most states have at least one of those laws, but they are enforced and implemented at varying degrees, according to Williams.

A major portion of the report includes a scoring system ranking states by several indicators, including if the state had a primary seat belt law, required mandatory ignition interlock devices (IID) for all convicted drunk drivers and had a helmet use law for all motorcyclists. California and New York got the highest score in those evaluations.

TFAH Executive Director Jeff Levi called those indicators “proven, evidence-based strategies” of injury prevention.

“This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer,” Levi said.

Federal research has also shown that primary seat belt laws “were associated with higher use rates and increases in the odds of being buckled.”

The same research also shows that restraints cut risk of fatality by 45 percent for people in the front seat of vehicles.

Belts help people in a vehicle collision “‘ride down’ a crash” at slower speeds that reduces chance of injury, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

“Worn properly, safety belts are designed to spread crash forces across the stronger bony parts of the upper body,” the IIHS, a provider of insurance analysis and research, said in an FAQ about seat belts. “Safety belts also prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle, an event associated with high risk of injury and death.”

Ohio and Montana Rank Lowest for Injury Prevention Indicators

Ohio and Montana scored the lowest—2 out of 10—in injury prevention indicators. Twenty-four states scored five or lower. California and New York scored the highest with a 9 out of 10.

The report found that 32 states and Washington, D.C., have primary seat belt laws that allow police to pull over and ticket drivers who don’t use the restraints in their vehicle.

However, states were looser when it came to helmet and IID laws, with 31 states not requiring helmets for all motorcyclists and 34 states and Washington D.C. not requiring IIDs for all convicted drunk drivers, according to the report.

States with IID laws may eventually make it easier for convicted drunk drivers to later get cheap high risk auto insurance, since they lessen the likelihood that the driver will get on the road intoxicated.

Seven States Rated Well in Injury-Related Death Rates

Based on a three-grade system, seven states were ranked in the top category of having fewer than 50 deaths per 100,000 people: Illinois with 48.7, Hawaii with 48.3, Connecticut with 47.9, California with 47.6, Massachusetts with 41.1, New York with 37.1 and New Jersey with 36.1.

The study reported that the overall nationwide rate was 57.9 deaths per 100,000.

About Matthew Morisset
Matthew Morisset is a proud alumnus of the University of Redlands, where he obtained a degree in English Literature. Utilizing his passion for analysis and writing, Matthew looks for important trends in the auto insurance industry and their implications for consumers and the market as a whole.

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