Heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the leading causes of death in America in 1999.
Unintentional injuries caused by car crashes, fires, falls, poisonings and other occurrences, are the fifth leading cause of death in American for all age groups.
According to the "Report on Injuries," released by the National Safety Council (NSC) during its Congress in Orlando, Fla., 96,600 people died of fatal injuries in 1999.
In 1999, disabling injuries from mostly preventable causes numbered 20.8 million. Of these injuries, a fatality occurs every 5 minutes, according to the report based on the 2000 edition of "Injury Facts," the NSC''s annual report on the country''s safety and health.
"We know when, where and how unintentional injuries happen -- they are predictable and preventable," said NSC President Jerry Scannell. "Everyone in America can take steps to reduce the risk of injury to themselves and their families."
The report found that medical expenses, property damages, employer costs, fire losses and other expenses related to preventable injuries cost Americans an estimated $469.0 billion last year.
"Prevention is much less expensive," explained Scannell. "Simple things, like buckling your seat belt, checking the batteries in your smoke detector or wearing a bicycle helmet, can save your life."
To focus on the country''s injury prevention effort, the Council gave specific recommendations to reduce fatal and disabling injuries on the highway, at work, at home and in the community.
On the Highway
- Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 33. The NSC recommends that every state enact graduated licensing laws, which are now in effect in 36 states. Graduated licensing laws allow all novice drivers to gain critical experience behind the wheel in lower risk settings before driving in more difficult environments.
- The Council also recommends stronger safety belt laws nationwide.
- At work there is a fatal injury every 103 minutes and a disabling injury every 8 seconds. In 1999, 3.8 million American workers suffered from injuries involving days away from work.
- Work injuries cost Americans $122.6 billion. The NSC recommends that company CEOs invest in safety and health programs by makings safety a core value within the company, including the enactment of strict "buckle up" policies for employees.
- Falls are the leading cause of death in the home, taking the lives of 9,600 people in 1999. Other fatal injuries include solid and liquid poisonings, fires and burns, and drowning.
- The NSC recommends that everyone take steps to reduce the risk of falls in homes by installing grab bars in bathrooms and handrails on stairs. Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Check the home for radon and install carbon monoxide detectors and eliminate choking hazards.
In the Community
- In public places there is a fatality every 22 minutes and a disabling injury every 4 seconds. The NSC recommends making communities walkable by providing residents access to safe walking areas.
- In addition, the Council urges increased initiatives to address recreational safety, such as boating, biking and in-line skating. To give assistance if an injury does occur, NSC recommends that all adults learn CPR and first aid.
by Virginia Sutcliffe