New Mexico Has Highest Rate of Injury Deaths in U.S., Study Says

Injuries—including those caused by accidents and violence—are the third leading cause of death nationally, and they are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 44.

In a new report, The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, 24 states scored a five or lower on a set of 10 key indicators of steps states can take to prevent injuries. Two states, California and New York, received the highest score of nine out of a possible 10, while two states scored the lowest, Montana and Ohio, with two out of 10.

Injuries—including those caused by accidents and violence—are the third leading cause of death nationally, and they are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 44.

The Facts Hurt report, released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), says that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.

Overall, New Mexico has the highest rate of injury-related deaths in the United States, at a rate of 97.8 per 100,000 people, while New Jersey has the lowest rate at 36.1 per 100,000. Overall, the national rate is 57.9 per 100,000 Americans who die from injury-related fatalities.

Approximately 50 million Americans are medically treated for injuries each year, and more than 2.8 million are hospitalized. Nearly 12,000 children and teens die from injuries resulting from accidents each year and around 9.2 million are treated in emergency rooms. Every year, injuries generate $406 billion in lifetime costs for medical care and lost productivity.

For The Facts Hurt report, TFAH and RWJF worked with a committee of top injury prevention experts from the Safe States Alliance and the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Prevention (SAVIR) to develop a set of indicators of leading evidence-based strategies that have been shown to reduce injuries and save lives. Some key findings include:

  • 29 states do not require bicycle helmets for all children;
  • 17 states do not require that children ride in a car seat or booster seat to at least the age of eight;
  • 31 states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders;
  • 34 states and Washington, D.C., do not require mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers;
  • 18 states do not have primary seat belt laws;
  • 44 states scored a "B" or lower on a teen dating violence law review by the Break the Cycle organization; and
  • 13 states do not have strong youth sport concussion safety laws.

"There are proven, evidence-based strategies that can spare millions of Americans from injuries each year," said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer."

The report found that many injury prevention activities have been scientifically shown to reduce harm and deaths, for instance:

  • Seat belts saved an estimated 69,000 lives from 2006 to 2010;
  • Motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 8,000 lives from 2005 to 2009;
  • Child safety seats saved around 1,800 lives from 2005 to 2009;
  • The number of children and teens killed in motor vehicle crashes dropped 41 percent from 2000 to 2009; and
  • School-based programs to prevent violence have cut violent behavior among high school students by 29 percent.

The report also identified a set of emerging new injury threats, including a dramatic rise in prescription drug abuse, concussions in school sports, bullying, crashes from texting while driving, and an expected increase in the number in falls as the baby boomer generation ages.

The report also finds that funding for injury prevention for states from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) averages 28 cents per American—and has dropped 24 percent from fiscal years 2006 to 2011—and 31 states have full-time injury and violence prevention directors, which limits injury prevention efforts, according to the report.

The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is available on TFAH's website at www.healthyamericans.org.

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