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Automobile crashes remain the leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults, compounded by the effects of alcohol and failure to use seatbelts. Although males have tended to be associated with alcohol-related crashes, new research shows that young females are beginning to show an alarming increase in fatal automobile crashes related to alcohol use and a failure to use seatbelts.
The study, from the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Irvine Medical Center, showed that over a 10 year period (1995-2004) females began to "catch up" to males in risky behaviors and while seatbelt use increased for both males and females, the increase for women was smaller.
When combined with other factors such as cell phone use while driving and distractions from other teenagers in the car, the trends for young women are not positive.
According to Dr. Tsai, lead researcher "Young females should not be overlooked or underestimated in risky driving habits and involvement in alcohol-related crashes. Emergency Department staff should consider the teachable moment when they come across the young person involved in a crash no matter if they are male or female. They are both at considerable risk for serious and fatal crashes especially if there is alcohol involved.
While they may be in the Emergency Department for a minor crash, the time and conversation the staff may have with them at that time may save their lives.
In another study, analysis of crash data for over 65,000 front-seat occupants and found that airbags, while effective for people of medium stature, 5'3" to 5'11" (160 cm to 180 cm) were actually harmful to people smaller than 4'11" (150 cm) and taller than 6'3" (190 cm).
Body weight was not a contributing factor to injury rates. Since many "smart" airbags use body weight to determine how the airbag deploys, these data suggest that a new method needs to be found.
According to the author, in this 11-year sample of drivers and front passengers, occupants of small and large stature appeared to be at risk of serious injury from an air bag. These findings suggest that to maximize safety such occupants should not be seated in front of an air bag when traveling in a motor vehicle.
Recent reviews, highlight how concerted action is urgently needed worldwide to tackle the global burden of injuries and deaths caused by road-traffic crashes. Attention is specifically required in low and middle-income countries where the numbers of road injuries and deaths continues to rise.
Around 1.2 million people were killed and 50 million injured in road-traffic crashes worldwide in 2002, costing the global community about US$518 billion. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has described the situation as "a worsening global disaster destroying lives and livelihoods, hampering development and leaving millions in greater vulnerability". Without appropriate action, road-traffic injuries are predicted to escalate from the ninth leading contributor to the global burden of disease in 1990 to the third by 2020.
A 2004 WHO report and the subsequent collaboration of 42 agencies worldwide led to the UN General Assembly to pass a new resolution on road safety on Oct 26, 2005. In addition to recommending the implementation of the WHO report to reduce road-traffic injuries and deaths, the UN also called for the organisation of the first UN Global Road-Safety Week (April 23?26, 2007); and requested that Member States and the international community recognise the third Sunday in November of every year as the World Day of Remembrance for Road-Traffic Victims.
Associate Professor Shanthi Ameratunga (University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues outline the current evidence for the severe toll that road-traffic crashes have worldwide, and emphasise the under-reported burden in low and middle-income countries.
Motorisation has enhanced the lives of many individuals and societies. But the benefits have come with a price. Although the numbers of lives lost in road crashes in high-income countries have declined in recent decades, for most of the world's population, the burden of road-traffic injury -- in terms of societal and economic costs -- is rising substantially.
A global commitment to implement the recommendations of the 2004 world report, and address the disparities evident in low-income and middle-income countries, is essential.
This will only be possible with the concerted effort of policy makers, public-health practitioners, road safety advocates, community groups and other committed partners, working within a common framework, as envisaged and supported by the UN.
Road deaths almost 400 times greater than those from international terrorism
The death toll from car crashes in developed countries is almost 400 times greater than the number of deaths caused by international terrorism, according to recent studies.
In 2001 as many people died every 26 days on US roads as died in the terrorist bombings of 9/11, the study shows.
The authors compared the number of deaths from international terrorism and car crashes in the 29 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) between 1994 and 2003. They used the US State Department Counterterrorism Office database for deaths caused by international terrorist activity, and the OECD International Road Transport Accident Database for 2000 and 2001 for those caused by car crashes.
For the 29 OECD countries, 33 acts of international terrorism occurred during the study period, accounting for 3064 deaths, excluding those of the perpetrators. The attacks all occurred in 10 of the OECD countries, with the highest number of fatal attacks in Turkey.
The annual death rate from car crashes was around 390 times higher than the death toll from international terrorism. Among the 10 countries where people had died as a result of international terrorism, the ratio of road deaths to terrorist deaths ranged from 142 times greater in the US to over 55,000 times greater in Poland.
Deaths from car crashes were equivalent to the impact of a 9/11 attack every nine day, for all the countries put together.
The researchers cite other evidence, suggesting that the number of Americans who avoided flying after 9/11 and were subsequently killed in car crashes was higher than the total number of passengers who died on the four 9/11 flights.
The authors are at pains not to minimise the emotional, economic, and political impacts of terrorism. But they point out there is a huge difference in the scale of death between terrorism and car crashes. And the evidence to inform policy is also much greater for car crashes.
Policy makers need to consider these issues when allocating resources towards preventable interventions that can save lives from these two avoidable causes of mortality.
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