Seven states, and D.C., lead in avoiding preventable deaths

Sep 9, 2017

Choking, fires, and motor vehicle crashes are all accidents that can cause otherwise preventable deaths. Easy tasks like knowing CPR, having smoke detectors in your home, and buckling your seatbelt are all things that could prevent an accidental death. 

Joining us is Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, an organization that focuses on eliminating preventable deaths in our lifetime. Hersman is here to discuss how legislators as well as private citizens can take steps to help prevent some of these accidental deaths.

This year, the National Safety Council wrapped up a year-long survey of actions taken by each state that reduce risk for all residents. This survey gave each state a letter grade published in "The State of Safety: A State by State Report." While a lot of states didn't do well, Maryland, Illinois, Washington D.C, and Oregon came out on top. 

The survey looked at laws and regulations each state has in place to prevent the most common accidental deaths. Some of these are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls at work or in the home
  • Unintentional opioid overdose 

Programs in place

States succeeding in these areas have laws to curb distracted and intoxicated driving; seatbelt requirements; less recorded cases of leaving kids in hot cars unattended; and fire safety, like smoke detectors and suppression systems.

The seven safest states include Maryland, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Connecticut, California and Washington. The District of Columbia also ranks in the top eight (at third).

While some states are doing well, other states are falling short of what is expected.

"For example Michigan and Montana only had one or none of those efforts in place. And what we saw for states like Maryland, they had three or four indicators in place," says Hersman. 

The council also looks for prevention programs like concussion safety for children and related return-to-play laws (when children are allowed to come back to the sport after suffering from a concussion). 

People that don't want to comply

Even with safety measures and legislation in place, some people don't want to comply with laws like having to wear a seatbelt and or helmet. While it might be an individual’s choice to not follow the law or comply with regulations, the cost of an accident may not fall just on the individual.

"You get to the point where some of those costs are not going to be borne by the individual. You reach catastrophic caps and Medicaid begins to pick those things up," says Hersman. 

The reality is that not having these laws in place is actually costing the state and the individual more. In Louisiana, the National Safety Council found that it was costing the state and the tax payers more money after they repealed their helmet law than when they had it in effect. 

While these laws can be at the expense of the individual, there are cases where they have been successful.

"When I grew up we didn’t have child seats," says Hersman. "Now all 50 states have laws that require that all children be restrained in a size appropriate restraint because seatbelts are made for adults not children and so car seats are ubiquitous in society now but they weren’t when I grew up.”