U.S. Sees First Increase in Auto Accident Fatalities Since 2005

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a finalized report on motor vehicle crashes and fatalities in 2012. Following six consecutive years of declines in fatalities, the United States saw a 3.3 percent increase in 2012. On the nation’s roads, 33,561 people lost their lives in 2012, compared with the 32,479 who died in 2011. An estimated 2.36 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, compared with 2.22 million in 2011 — an increase of 6.5 percent.

The good news is that auto accident fatalities are still well below the recent highs recorded in 2005. That year, there were 43,510 deaths on American roads. This year’s figures represent the first statistically significant increase since 1995.

In addition to these fatality totals, auto accident fatalities can also be usefully measured as a rate per miles traveled. After all, if the total number of miles traveled rises or falls, one would expect the number of injuries and deaths to move in the same direction. It turns out that the fatality rate rose by nearly the same percentage as the overall number of deaths. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rose from 1.10 to 1.14 — an increase of 3.6 percent. The injury rate rose somewhat more steeply, from 75 to 80 per 100 million VMT — an increase of 6.7 percent.

The report noted that no one particular factor accounted for a large portion of the increase in deaths. In fact, crashes associated with some high-risk factors decreased in 2012. For instance, fatal crashes involving young drivers have continued to decline, as they have since 2005.

However, fatalities among motorcyclists, pedestrians and pedalcyclists increased at rates slightly higher than those of the overall 3.3 percent fatality increase. Motorcyclist deaths increased by 7.1 percent, pedestrian deaths by 6.4 percent and pedalcyclist deaths by 6.5 percent.

Fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving increased by 4.6 percent in 2012. Particularly notable is the fact that crashes in which one or more drivers were legally intoxicated account for nearly one third of total deaths on the road. When one considers that the vast majority of drivers never drive drunk, and even those who do engage in such reckless behavior tend not to do so very often, it is plain to see that drunk drivers die (and cause deaths) at an astronomically higher rate than sober drivers.

Although an increase in fatal accidents is discouraging, the NHTSA report must be viewed in a larger context. Deadly crashes have fallen at a significant rate for several years. The nation continues to make headway in road safety. When the statistics for 2013 and beyond begin to be tallied, we may very well learn that last year’s numbers were simply an anomaly in a long downtrend.

Categories and Signs of Elder Abuse

If one of your relatives resides in a nursing home, you may be concerned about his or her vulnerability to abuse or neglect. You may be particularly concerned if your loved one lacks awareness due to dementia or another ailment, and might therefore be unable to communicate the existence of abuse or even to comprehend it.

Abuse comes in many forms. Following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of abuse to which a nursing home resident may be subjected:

  • Physical: force causing injury or pain.
  • Emotional: infliction of emotional distress.
  • Sexual: any non-consensual sexual activity imposed on a patient.
  • Neglect: failure to adequately supervise a patient or to provide for his or her needs.
  • Financial/Material: use of a patient’s money or possessions for personal gain.

Watch out for warning signs that may indicate abuse:

  • Physical marks. Injuries and bruises are, of course, cause for alarm. Even if a plausible explanation is given, they may indicate a lack of supervision. Poor hygiene or an unkempt appearance could indicate neglect.
  • Changes in behavior. Some gradual changes in behavior are expected as people age, but if a loved one suddenly becomes fearful, withdrawn or upset, that could indicate serious abuse.
  • Changes in finances. Missing money or transfers of savings to another person are suspect, as is the use or taking of a patient’s personal property by a caregiver. Also, watch out for unexplained additions of unneeded services to your loved one’s care.

Church Van’s Tire Blowout Kills Three; How to Respond to a Blowout Safely

Three people, including two children, were killed when the Florida church van in which they were riding blew out a tire and crashed.

The van was carrying at least 10 parishioners from the Gospel of the Kingdom Church in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. The churchgoers were near Chipley, eastbound on Interstate 10 on their way to Tallahassee, when a rear tire blew out. The driver lost control of the van, which then rolled several times, ejecting several passengers. Two young victims and Patricia Baker, 58, were killed at the scene.

Walton County school superintendent Carlene Anderson described the community as very small and tight-knit, and said the deaths would have “a huge impact on everyone.”

The National Safety Commission says that top-heavy vehicles like vans and SUVs are far more prone to rollover than sedans and other vehicles that rest low to the ground. The commission provides the following procedure for handling a tire blowout:

Do not apply the brakes. Because one tire is completely deflated or even missing, braking will be uneven, making it more difficult to steer.

Focus on steering. Do not turn the wheel sharply. Make small adjustments.

Allow the car to slow down on its own, which should happen fairly rapidly with a blown tire.

Gently apply the brakes once you are in full control of the vehicle’s path.

Steer off the road, as long as doing so does not present a hazard. Turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights. After the vehicle comes to a full stop, only attempt to change the tire if you are able to do so without getting too close to the roadway. Do not attempt to drive on the wheel rims.