LEXINGTON, Ky (April 5, 2011)—The American Public Health Association (APHA) yesterday kicked off National Public Health Week.
Each year, 150,000 people are killed and over 30 million are sent to the emergency room because of injuries. These injuries occur in all aspects of life, including at home, at work, and at play. APHA wants to educate the general public that “safety is no accident."
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) collects data on all injuries in the state of Kentucky. According to the data, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury to Kentuckians. In addition to the pain and suffering caused by vehicle collisions to victims and their families, there is a considerable burden placed on the medical system and, as a result, on the costs of medical care and health insurance.
A snapshot for Kentucky in 2009 provides a glimpse of just how serious the problem is: 791 people were killed, over $184 million was spent in hospital expenses, and more than 18,000 days were spent in the hospital as a result of vehicle collisions. The top three counties for fatalities were Jefferson, Warren and Fayette. Each of us can play a role in keeping ourselves, our families, and those around us safe from injury and violence.
What can you do to stay safe while operating your motor vehicle?
Wear a Helmet. Motorcyclists should wear DOT-approved helmets whenever riding. The majority of motorcycle fatalities were associated with not wearing a helmet. For each fatality, there were many more riders who suffered traumatic brain injury.
Wear a Seatbelt. All occupants in a vehicle should wear their seatbelts. Not only is it the law, but seatbelts are proven to save lives and reduce the number of serious injuries. Proper use of child passenger safety seats is essential to keep children safe.
Reduce glare. The sun can be merciless coming off the horizon at dawn and setting at dusk. The driver may consider investing in a pair of polarized sunglasses. This type is designed to significantly reduce glare.
Don’t drink and drive. 194 fatalities were related to a driver who was impaired by alcohol. Remember it is not just alcohol that can impair your judgment. Illegal, prescription, and over the counter drugs may affect your ability to make correct decisions, endangering the lives of the driver, passengers and others on the road (KRS 189A.010).
Pay attention to the road at all times. Driver inattentiveness results from activities such as eating, changing a radio station, making a phone call or searching for an item inside the vehicle. In five seconds of distraction, your vehicle can potentially travel the length of one and a half football fields. In that distance, vehicle drift, cars braking, and road hazards may result in a bad outcome.
Observe road conditions. Road conditions play a significant factor in vehicle collisions. Do not get a sense of overconfidence with four-wheel drive vehicles. They fare no better than two wheel drive vehicles on black ice or while hydroplaning. In fog, use fog lights if available. Low headlight beams are recommended over high beams, as high beams can be reflected by the fog back toward the driver. During inclement weather, you may need to reduce your speed below the posted limit. Whether driving in fog, rain, snow, or darkness, do not overdrive your headlights. That means you need to slow down, so that your stopping distance is not greater than the distance you can see with your headlights.
Get your rest. Driver fatigue is another contributing factor to motor vehicle collisions. If you experience driver fatigue, ask a licensed passenger to take over driving. If you are alone, or without another licensed driver, do one of the following: pull into a rest stop and stretch your legs. You may wish to get a drink and some food; pull into a rest stop and take a nap or stop at a hotel.
Control your anger. Road rage is a problem on the highways. If you are a victim of road rage, remain calm. Pull over to the right, and let the vehicle pass you. Do not engage the driver with eye contact or any gestures. If you wish to take action, note the license and report the driver.
Follow rules of the road. Obeying the rules of the road is for your protection, as well as those around you. By obeying the speed limit, using turn signals, not running red lights, coming to a full stop at stop signs, slowing down for construction, and being a courteous driver, you increase your likelihood of having a safe and pleasant drive.
Pass safely. Typically drivers pass motor vehicles on the left. Passing on the right can contribute to the number of vehicle collisions. Kentucky law states that “the operator of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions: when the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; upon a roadway with an unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle. The operator of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movements in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway unless passing vehicle comes to a complete stop and such movement may be made safely."
Vehicle preparation. Basic upkeep of your vehicle improves safety. Some steps to take include the following:
- Check your tires for proper air pressure. Overinflated tires are just as dangerous as underinflated tires.
- Replace old wipers, and wipe your blades periodically to remove dirt and oil
- Make sure your front and rear windshields are clear of snow. Do not move your vehicle until your windshield is free of condensation by using your defoggers.
- Take the penny test. Insert a penny into the tread of your tire. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by tread, you have at least 2/32 of an inch of tread depth. If your tire fails this test, you may need new tires.
Final thoughts. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Be aware of other drivers and limitations of the vehicles around you. You do not want to cause or become a fatality statistic. For more information on injury prevention, contact KIPRC at (859) 257-4954 or visit us at www.kiprc.uky.edu.