MAY 31, 2012 10:46 a.m. (1)
With 10 fatalities reported on South Carolina’s roads over the long Memorial Day weekend, the statistics on accidental deaths in the state keep climbing. Preventing some of those deaths was the goal of a report released last week, which ranked South Carolina 13th among all 50 states and Washington, D.C., in the rate of accidental deaths.
The report, “The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), also gave the state three out of a possible 10 points on key indicators of steps states can take to prevent injuries.
The report combined data from 2007 to 2009, and found that 71.7 per 100,000 people in South Carolina suffered injury fatalities, compared to a national rate of 57.9 per 100,000.
New Mexico had the highest rate nationally, with 97.8 per 100,000; New Jersey had the lowest, with 36.1 per 100,000.
The total lifetime medical costs due to fatal injury in South Carolina were $26.3 million, the report said.
The report also identified 10 key steps that states can take to prevent injuries. South Carolina has taken only three of those 10 steps: instituting primary seatbelt laws; creation of an active prescription drug monitoring program to prevent accidental overdose; and the use of external cause of injury codes (E-codes) in emergency department records to help researchers track trends and develop prevention strategies.
Among the measures recommended in the report that South Carolina has not advanced is requiring booster seats for children to at least the age of 8, which 33 other states and Washington, D.C., have done. South Carolina law only requires booster seats for children under 6, and then only if the child is 80 pounds or lighter, or cannot sit with his back against the car’s seat and bend his legs over the seat edge without slouching.
South Carolina also has no universal helmet law requiring helmets for all motorcycle riders, as 19 other states and the capital do. And the state does not require bicycle helmets for all children, as 21 other states and Washington, D.C., do.
The Palmetto State is also one of only six states that has not extended domestic violence laws to allow unmarried people in dating relationships to get protection orders against their partners, the report said. Currently, South Carolina family courts only grant orders of protection to married or live-in couples, although a bill to change that is under consideration by the Legislature.
“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.
The report also warned against a set of emerging accident threats, including “a dramatic, fast rise in prescription drug abuse, concussions in school sports, bullying, crashes from texting while driving and an expected increase in the number of falls as the Baby Boomer generation ages.”
“Seat belts, helmets, drunk driving laws and a range of other strong prevention policies and initiatives are reducing injury rates around the country,” said Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance, who helped to research the report. “However, we could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies. Lack of national capacity and funding are major barriers to states adopting these and other policies.”
The report is available on TFAH’s website at www.healthyamericans.org.