National Safety Month Focuses on Motor Vehicle Crashes

The theme of this year's National Safety Month is "Crash-Free June," focusing on the leading cause of injury death in America: motor vehicle crashes.

"Crash-Free June" is a month-long initiative to change driver behavior that causes crashes. In 2002, there were 6.3 million motor vehicle crashes in the United States reported to law enforcement authorities, resulting in 2.3 million disabling injuries and 44,000 deaths. The National Safety Ccouncil estimates the total cost to society of these crashes to be $242.7 billion - representing a cost of more than $800 per year for every American.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury death in America and of injury death at work. Motor vehicle crashes are the eighth leading cause of death overall (behind heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and Alzheimer's disease).

The NSC estimates that driver behavior contributes to 90 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. Crashes that were solely caused by vehicle or external factors account for the other 10 percent of crashes. Several specific driver behaviors and errors account for a significant portion of these crashes.

"Every day in America, an average of 120 people die in motor vehicle crashes," said NSC President Alan McMillan. "There are a number of behavioral and skills issues that contribute to these fatalities and multiple factors are at work in some crashes. About 50 of these daily victims die in crashes in which alcohol use is a factor. Speeding is a factor in about 40 of these daily deaths. Drivers who lose control of their vehicles, resulting in rollovers, are involved in crashes that kill about 25 people per day. Teen drivers are involved in crashes resulting in about 25 fatalities each day. Each death is a personal, local tragedy. Taken together, however, these deaths represent a serious national public health issue."

He said the ultimate goal of Crash-Free June is to eliminate motor vehicle crashes, injuries and deaths. "Some may view this goal as unattainable," McMillan admitted, "but striving for zero injuries is the ultimate goal of any safety initiative. Making measurable progress toward this goal will require that motorists develop new driving behaviors. We believe that people who make real changes in their driving behavior during Crash-Free June will adopt those behaviors and exhibit them on a continuing basis. We are hopeful that this national initiative to improve driver behavior will contribute to a safer driving culture with fewer crashes and injuries in June and in the months and years to follow."

The NSC is calling on employers to designate Crash-Free June in their organizations and adopt education and training programs for their employees and families. The group is encouraging families to discuss driver behavior and skills issues, particularly with young and novice drivers, and to take driver training programs offered online and by local NSC chapters and training agencies.

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