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The Leading Cause of Death in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number one ranking cause of death in 2003 for all age groups between 1 and 44 years of age was unintentional injuries. The overwhelming majority of these were due to motor vehicle accidents.

Unintentional injuries were also the third ranking cause of death for the 45 to 54 age group and the fifth ranking cause of death for all ages.

There are about 44,000 motor vehicle deaths a year in the United States and approximately half of these are related to alcohol or drugs. Many of these tragic deaths can be prevented.

Individuals and society are compelled to make changes to reduce drastically this carnage on our roads and highways. The seriously impaired driver has no place behind the wheel of a car or truck that can serve as a weapon of destruction against a fragile and precious life.

Obviously, measures to remove the threat of intoxicated drivers are essential to creating a safer environment on the roads. In addition, there are simple measures that can promote responsible driving. For example, using seat belts and car seats increases the probability of survival and reduces serious complications. Driving at reasonable speeds instead of racing carelessly to arrive a few minutes early is sensible. Because intentional running of red lights has been endemic in some localities, the installation of electronic devices to capture the culprits has had to be implemented.

Total disregard for caution zones is a shame, but this has resulted in tough laws. In some communities a negligent driver can be cited for several traffic violations for improper driving in one of these zones that require slower speeds.

One common oversight puts pedestrians at risk occurs at traffic lights and stop signs. Suppose a driver who approaches an intersection intends to turn right after arriving at the intersection. He will look to the left to make sure that the traffic is clear and then will start moving to the right before he actually turns his head to the right. In other words, he is still looking to the left while he is turning to the right. Needless to say, a pedestrian in a crosswalk to his right is in jeopardy, because the driver does not see him. This condition is made worse if the driver fails to make a complete stop at the intersection, as is frequently the case. Sliding through the red light or stop sign without stopping completely before turning to the right has regrettably become the norm for many drivers who are in a hurry.

Distractions not infrequently can be found to be a contributing factor to the cause of an accident. With the widespread use of cell phones, a driver's attention is divided with scanning the road and with the conversation. These distractions also include radios, CD's, DVD's and televisions. Some drivers eat and drink while they drive. Some brush their hair or put on cosmetics. All of these diminish the ability to concentrate on driving defensively.

Driving while emotionally upset is not advised. Impulsive and reckless driving is inviting a disaster to happen. Road rage is becoming more common as courtesy on the roads is a thing of bygone days.

The age of the driver may influence the accident rate. Insurance companies are well aware of the occurrence of accidents based on age groups. Some people may be more irrational or have slower reflex times in critical situations.

Tracking of accidents is vital for providing adequate response teams such as firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers and hospital emergency room staff. The added medical costs affect all of society, especially when the money and expertise could have been diverted to other areas. The tragic loss of a loved one can have a lifelong impact on the well-being of family and friends. Under these circumstances no dollar amount can be assessed for the grief experienced.

Of course, many people do survive terrible accidents but are disabled for life and require specialized therapy or supportive care. Many cannot return to the same jobs they once had so their employers have to find new help. Many cannot have the same active role in family activities as they once had. Many cannot continue their participation in the community as well.

Enjoy your driving time, slow down, drive defensively and arrive alive.

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