Over 400 people die every day in the United States from accidental injuries. In 2018, unintentional injuries became the third leading cause of death for the first time in history, only beat by heart disease and cancer. According to the National Safety Council (N.S.C.), 47.2 million Americans reported injuries in 2017. Of these, 169,936 resulted in fatalities, and 100 percent of these deaths were preventable.
June is National Safety Month. Over the next few weeks, communities and organizations across the nation will band together to focus on reducing the leading causes of preventable injuries and fatalities. Accidents can happen anywhere: home, work, on the road, and out in the community. To keep families and communities safe, it's up to every Marylander to know how to recognize the most common hazards leading to injuries and the steps to take to reduce harm to others.
Leading Causes of Death In America
Unintentional deaths are fatal injuries sustained from accidents that could have been prevented. For instance, a traffic fatality caused by a drunk driver would not have occurred if the driver was sober behind the wheel.
Likewise, a person who died of a traumatic head injury after slipping on wet floors could have been spared if the floors had been properly marked or dried.
In the United States, the leading causes of accidental injuries resulting in death include:
- Poisoning: 64,795 deaths
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: 40,231 deaths
- Falls: 36,338 deaths
- Suffocation: 6,946 deaths
- Unspecified: 6,606 deaths
Poisoning has surprisingly become the top leading cause of accidental death in the country, with the highest rates of fatalities for individuals ages 25 to 34. This category includes deaths caused by drug overdoses, and experts believe the opioid epidemic has contributed greatly to the increase. Other causes of preventable deaths recorded include other transport, natural/environment, drowning, and fire/burn.
Leading Causes of Death In Maryland
Maryland has seen a steady increase in preventable deaths since 2014. According to the most recent Injury Fact Report by the N.S.C., approximately 2,408 fatalities in the state were caused by accidental injuries in 2017. These were the top four leading causes:
- Falls: 751 deaths
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: 574 deaths
- Suffocation: 116 deaths
- Unspecified: 69 deaths
Marylanders who are 65 and older saw the highest rate of preventable fatalities in the state, with 977 deaths and 635 of them due to falling accidents. The death rate for other age groups in Maryland include:
- 15 - Infants < 1
- 19 -Children 1 to 4
- 0 - Children 5 to 9
- 10- Children 10 to 14
- 161 - Children 15 to 24
- 299 - Adults 25 to 34
- 247 - Adults 35 to 44
- 334 - Adults 45 to 54
- 342 - Adults 55 to 64
- 977 - Adults > 65
Weekly Safety Topics: Know Your Risks
Prevention is a key factor in decreasing unnecssary injuries and fatalites. National Safety Month covers a different safety topic every week in June to help keep Americans safe by learning to identify various risks:
Week 1: Hazard Recognition
Hazards are everywhere. What risks aren't you seeing? You might think your home or workplace is safe, but no environment is hazard free. Learning how to recognize hazards that could cause unnecessary injuries is the first step to reducing accidental fatalities. Look for items in your home, work, or community that could be potentially harmful. If you have a pool, is it gated?
If you have prescription medications, are they locked away? Being able to anticipate when something could be dangerous and dealing with it before it causes an accident is an invaluable skill that could save thousands of lives every year.
Week 2: Falls
Don't get tripped up! Clean up spills immediately. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in Maryland and the third leading cause nationwide. It only takes a second to sustain a serious injury from a fall, mainly when someone falls on their head and spine.
Stairs, clutter in walkways, spills, poorly kept workspaces, and distractions that take your eyes off your walking path can all lead to devastating accidents. Make an effort to clear the way if you notice a falling hazard at home or get assistance if the hazard cannot be moved at work or out in the community.
Week 3: Fatigue
70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Do you? Marylanders who are fighting sleep to stay awake or who are having trouble falling asleep, are at high risk for accidents. Fatigue can be extremely dangerous and lead to errors in judgment that would otherwise not be made with adequate sleep.
Several factors can cause trouble sleeping, including alcohol, caffeine, distractive environments, and screens. Focusing on these issues first can help you get control of your sleep and increase your attention, vigilance, memory, and concentration throughout the day.
Week 4: Impairment
Drunk, drugged, drowsy, different. No level of impairment is safe. Impairment causes unnecessary mistakes that can lead to catastrophic and fatal injuries. Drugs, fatigue, alcohol, stress, anxiety, and any other factor that takes your attention away from a task can be dangerous. Don't take chances. Rest and recuperate when you need to. Do not allow impairments to put yourself or others at risk.
National Safety Month is all about spreading the word to save lives. Here are a few ways you can get involved this June to help decrease preventable injuries in your area:
- At Home: Get your family involved in keeping your home safe. Educate your older children on the importance of safety and what they can do if they see hazards in the home. Inform any visitors to your home about the safety methods you use to encourage others to increase safety measures in their homes.
- At Work: Take the SafeAtWork pledge with coworkers to help hold each other accountable for keeping the workplace safe. Schedule weekly safety meetings to discuss concerns and review the N.S.C. safety topics to spread awareness.
- In The Community: Consider getting together with neighbors to hold a safety event. Distribute flyers and other information while providing fun activities to keep people interested. If there are significant safety concerns within your community, make a plan to address them with local officials to inspire positive change.
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