Auto Deaths

Auto Related DeathAccording to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), automobile accidents are the leading killers of Americans between the ages of five and thirty-four. In 2009, the most recent year for which there are hard numbers, more than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers received emergency treatment because of such crashes, and in 2005 the lifetime costs of crash-related injuries and deaths among drivers totaled $70 billion, including medical services and insurance claims.

Despite these scary statistics, the CDC believes that motor vehicle injury prevention is what they refer to as a "winnable battle." This means that with a combination of driver education, safety devices, and paying special attention to high risk groups, including child passenger and teen and mature adult drivers, accidents in general, and fatal accidents specifically may be completely preventable.

Preventing Auto Deaths

So, how do we prevent auto-related deaths? The CDC believes there are three main points of attack: child safety seats, proper use of safety belts, and reducing impaired driving.

Child Safety Seats
The CDC recommends the use of child safety seats for all children under five years old, or under fifty pounds. As well, it recommends that children be placed in the back seat of a vehicle, even if there is no passenger in the front seat, but legislation varies on a state-by-state basis, with some requiring child safety seats for kids up to eight years old. The CDC also believes in encouraging proper use of such seats, including learning to correctly incorporate them into cars fitted with LATCH systems. They also believe that education alone is not enough, and that legislation in tandem with education is a key part of protecting child passengers.

Safety Belt Usage
Many states already have laws requiring seat belt usage, at least by drivers and front-seat passengers, but it's only been fairly recently that states have begun treating lack of a seat belt as a primary offense. That distinction makes it possible for law enforcement officers to initiate a traffic stop just for safety belt usage, and not have to wait for another offense (like speeding) to occur first. Education is also an important aspect of safety belt usage, according to the CDC, including knowing the proper adjustments to make for smaller passengers, so that shoulder belts restrain without causing injuries.

Reducing Impaired Driving
When it comes to reducing the number of people driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, the CDC supports laws specifying amaximum safe blood alcohol content, as well as the use of ignition interlock devices that prevent cars from being started if the driver doesn't pass a breath test. While the CDC supports education, it is still not sure that education alone will reduce the number of drunk drivers - with this risk to auto safety, it seems that drivers need to be at risk of losing their licenses in order to really be safer on the road. (For the record, the CDC is also not sure that designated drivers actually help.)

By focusing on these three key factors, the Centers for Disease Control, in cooperation with organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and local law enforcement agencies, believes that the number of auto accident injuries and fatalities can be drastically reduced.

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