Dr. Nancy: Accidents don't just happen

Nancy  Rudner

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Injuries are not accidents. “Accident” suggests random events or bad luck. Accidents don’t just happen. They occur when the perfect storm of factors are present. Conditions, situations, and human factors are not random. We can control many of factors to reduce the risks.

Injuries take a huge toll. Every three minutes someone in the U.S. suffers injury. Injuries and violence kill more people across the U.S. in the prime of life, ages 1 to 44, than any other cause. Injuries and violence take more lives than cancer or heart disease. The cost? More than $406 billion in medical care and lost productivity each year, leaving survivors with devastating paralysis, pain and other limitations. That is enough to keep our personal injury lawyers on TV and in court for years.

Car wrecks, falls, poisoning and suicides are leading causes of fatal injuries. We become numb to our daily traffic report but each car wreck in the news could mean someone’s life has changed forever. Every year, we learn of a drowning that may have been prevented with a locked door or survival swimming skills. The newspaper pages drip with bloody stories of gunshot deaths. Injuries and violence disrupt our health immensely; too often our health dialogue remains focused on diseases and treatments.

We have made some progress and have great improvement opportunities.

Seat belts, safer cars and better road designs have reduced car injuries by 43 percent. Unfortunately, 6 percent of Floridians do not always use seatbelts, and more than 30 percent of the children who died in car wrecks were not buckled in. We can do better.

Infant and child car seats save lives. With car seats used correctly, some children have been able to walk away from total wrecks, but most are not used correctly. Common mistakes like the wrong size car seat, incorrect installation and loose straps, detract from the car seat’s prevention power. Booster seats should be used until the child reaches age 8 or a height of 4-foot 9-inches. Have your child safety seat checked by your local police department (by appointment only – call 407-971-5700 for Oviedo; or 407-327-7958 for Winter Springs).

Bike riding is great exercise. The helmet protects the brain, but only when worn with the straps secured. So next time you see a kid with the helmet straps flapping in the wind, remind him he has a brain worth protecting.

Drunk driving disasters have decreased 30 percent in the past five years. From their anguish, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others have raised awareness of drinking and driving. Many young drinkers go with a DD- designated driver. But one drunk driving accident is too many and they are still happening.

Gun accidents happen, a lot. Four out of 10 gunshot victims in Florida emergency departments were shot by accident. In Orange County, half of nonfatal gunshot injuries were unintentional (not “accidental” since accidents don’t just happen).

Guns make suicide attempts fatal. More people die from self-inflicted gunshots than from homicides. Adolescents in a home with a loaded, unlocked firearm are four times more likely to take their own lives. Almost nine in 10 suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) recommends you never leave a firearm loaded and store it where it will not be accessible to someone who shouldn’t have access to it. How different Sandy Hook would be today if the shooter’s mother had locked up her guns. Always treat a gun is if it were loaded and pointed in a safe direction. Locking up your guns, especially with children, teens, and depressed or angry family members in the home, can reduce the risk of the firearm harming someone in your family. Some local police departments provide gun safety locks.

These are just some of the injuries we can prevent. Individually and together, let’s replace the magical thinking of “accidents” with a proactive eye on prevention.

Nancy Rudner is the nurse coach for HealthAction.biz, for individual and workplace health. Contact her at Nancy@healthaction.biz