Costs of Preventable Injuries 'Crippling' the Nation, NSC Warns

Each year, preventable injuries send nearly 27 million Americans to hospital emergency rooms for treatment and another 100,000 to early graves, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

The personal devastation caused by a disabling injury or injury-related death is compounded by the related costs, which annually exceed $600 billion, or about $5,700 per household, according to NSC.

"The costs associated with preventable injuries are crippling individuals, families, businesses and the health care system," said Alan C. McMillan, president and chief executive officer of NSC. "The National Safety Council is committed to preventing and mitigating the suffering and economic loss caused by these injuries."

In an effort to increase awareness of these trends resulting from the risk of serious injuries at work, in homes and communities and on roads and highways, NSC has announced the theme for June's National Safety Month observance will be "Safety where we live, work and play."

According to the annual NSC publication Injury Facts, deaths from unintentional injuries have increased 17 percent since 1992. Unintentional injury is now the No. 1 cause of death for people 1 to 39 years old and the fifth leading cause of death for all ages.

"The leading causes of preventable death and injury -- car crashes, falls, poisoning, choking, fire, drowning and suffocation -- are especially tragic because they are preventable," McMillan said. "Increasing awareness of how, when, where and to whom accidents occur is the first step in reducing the risk of injury; the next step is to practice proven injury prevention."

Home Is Not a Safe Haven

According to NSC, 54 percent of injury-related deaths occur in the home or community setting and only 8 percent are work-related.

"With more than half of the injury-related deaths occurring in and around the home, home is not the safe haven we think it is," McMillan said. "We have a greater challenge protecting people from injury and death in the perceived safety and comfort of their homes than in America's workplaces."

Motor vehicle crashes, falls, poisonings, choking, fires, drowning and suffocation are the seven leading causes of injury-related deaths in the United States, according to NSC.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, of the 27 million visits to hospital emergency rooms for unintentional injuries in 2002:

  • 7 million injuries were the result of falls.
  • 4.6 million injuries were suffered in motor vehicle crashes.
  • 4.5 million injuries were caused by being struck by or against an object or person.
  • 2.5 million injuries were caused by cutting or piercing instruments.

Who Gets Hurt

Data on the leading causes of nonfatal injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms also reveals:

  • Motor vehicle fatalities are highest among 15- to 19-year-olds, with the greatest number of fatalities occurring to drivers between 18 and 19.
  • Falls were the leading cause of injury-related death for those 78 and older and the second leading cause of death for those between 59 and 77 years old.
  • Suffocation is the leading cause of death for infants younger than 1 year.
  • Drowning was the second leading cause of injury death for children and adolescents between 1 and 18 years old.
  • Males have a higher rate of injury-related emergency room visits than females.
  • Males 15 to 24 years old had the highest rate of injury-related emergency room visits for males (for whom "struck by or against an object or person" was the leading cause of injury).
  • Women older than 75 had the highest rate of injury-related emergency room visits for females.

"The reality is no one is immune from the risk of injury, and the risks shift with changes in your age, lifestyle and physical environment," McMillan said. "The best defense is to know the physiological, behavioral and environmental risk factors for serious injuries, and how to minimize those risks throughout life."

For more information on injury risks and prevention information, visit NSC's National Safety Month Web page at http://www.nsc.org/nsm/.

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