A powerful book about injury prevention, a topic very near to my heart, has inspired me to speak out during this political season when we are hearing a lot of rhetoric about too much regulation, the “nanny state,” individual rights to not buckle up or wear a motorcycle helmet, or even not supporting public funding of essential things such as repair of highway bridges.
While We Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention, by David Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, presents a highly readable account of many successful efforts to protect people by preventing unintentional injuries and violence. It is his “personal ode to public health,” particularly injury prevention, which has fascinated him since the 1960s, when he worked for Ralph Nader and Consumers Union. He wants to explain the importance of public health because “most people do not recognize, or do not readily recall, when they personally have benefitted from a public health intervention.”
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Once again, in the heat of August, NHTSA aimed an icy blast at efforts to require lap-shoulder belts on all school buses. A petition submitted by Safe Ride News Publications and others in January, 2010 (SRN January/February 2010), after a fatal school bus crash in Connecticut, was denied by NHTSA on August 25, 2011. The agency said, “We have not found a safety problem supporting a federal requirement for lap-shoulder belts on large school buses, which are already safe.”
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Dr. Winston is a board-certified practicing pediatrician, biomechanical engineer, and clinical researcher. She is the founder and co-scientific director of The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Since 1997, CPSTs have helped families safely navigate occupant protection for children with measurable results. Motor vehicle crashes are no longer the leading cause of death for children under age 4.* We have tracked steady increases in appropriate restraint use and a corresponding drop in fatalities—from about 2,000 per year in the 1990s to fewer than 1,100 in 2009 for children less than 16 years old.
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One of the many benefits of attending a national conference like Lifesavers is the opportunity to hear leading policymakers communicate what they perceive to be our top safety priorities. One plenary session at Lifesavers this past April featured a panel discussion with leaders in the areas of roadway improvements, vehicle technologies, and occupant behaviors. During another, the new NHTSA head, David Strickland, took advantage of his first opportunity to address the Lifesavers group to lay out his goals and strategies.
I heard many familiar messages at these sessions: Driver distraction (in particular, texting) is a major area of concern; motorcycle fatalities are alarmingly high; drunk drivers are still major contributors to crashes, as are teen drivers. Basic problems like speeding and seat belt use also were mentioned as major areas of focus.
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