In our last post, we shared the warning from the 2017 Injury Facts report published by Illinois’ National Safety Council (NSC): more people are dying from accidents than ever before in this country. Fatal accident death rates are at an “all-time high.”
So, what is happening here? What is causing this record-breaking increase in accident fatalities, particularly when there’s all this talk about safety – like the efforts to curb distracted driving?
Why are fatal accidents happening more than ever before here in Indiana and Illinois and the rest of the United States?
Industry Fatigue: Sleep Deprivation
As discussed by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) the NSC points to “fatigue” by industry. It seems that workers are being asked to work while suffering from short term sleep deprivation. This leads to a less-alert worker and heightens the risk of a fatal accident.
“Concerningly, the prevalence of short sleep duration appears to be getting worse. In a combined sample from 1985 and 1990, only 24% of workers reported short sleep duration.”
What is short term sleep deprivation? It is when the victim does not get adequate sleep prior to his or her workday (or night). It causes “excessive daytime sleepiness” and is a known cause of both motor vehicle accidents and workplace injuries.
According to the NSC findings, as much as 478,000 workplace injuries may be caused by worker fatigue or sleep problems.
The industries most likely to have workers needing more sleep and working in the face of fatigue are (1) transportation and warehousing, (2) manufacturing, and (3) health care. This means a great risk of motor vehicle accidents; on the job fatalities; and deaths from medical malpractice.
The Danger of Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents: Higher Than We Know
In another report published last month, the NSC warned that we cannot really know how severe the danger is for a fatal car crash or semi-truck accident, because the state data collection does not give sufficient information. Read the NSC report online: “Undercounted Is Underinvested: How Incomplete Crash Reports Impact Efforts To Save Lives.”
There are not sufficient statistics to analyze and confirm the true number of deaths caused by fatal motor vehicle accidents in this country today. The danger is great, but we cannot accurately assess just how dangerous driving is for you and your loved ones here in Indiana and Illinois.
Why not? What does this mean? Right now, police reports do not have codes for things like driver fatigue, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of drugs (like marijuana). Even if the police officer knows the cause of the fatal crash, his report may not provide him with a means of reporting what happened.
So, researchers do not have complete information to delve into how dangerous our roads are today.
However, data is sufficient to report that roadway fatalities are a huge risk for anyone driving on the American Roadway. The data already contains “alarming trends” for auto accidents, particularly the skyrocketing number of teen driver deaths in motor vehicle crashes.
We’ve discussed the danger of motor vehicle accidents before. See,e.g., Teen Drivers and Fatal Car Accidents: High Risk in Indiana and Illinois. Also see the February 2017 article written by Neal E. Boudette in the New York Times, entitled “U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year.”
“Someone is seriously injured on our roads every 8 seconds; someone is killed every 15 minutes. In too many cases, we are gathering the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’ and better data will enable us to make better decisions.”
Poisoning From Prescription Drugs
Poisoning is the number one cause of unintentional death, according to the NSC. While some of these fatalities have been due to the illegal drug heroin, many of these poisoning deaths have been caused by legally prescribed drugs intended for pain management. Prescription opioids are causing a great number of accidental deaths in this country.
In its earlier report, “Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic; Painkillers Driving Addiction, Overdose,” the NSC discusses the danger of pain medications causing death from an opioid overdose.
Every day, 60 people die from opioid pain medications. The drug overdose epidemic has directly driven the overall rise in preventable deaths. There has been a 456% increase in poisoning deaths since 1993.
How is this happening? Both the NSC and the CDC confirm that doctors are prescribing pain medication much too often. Opioids are being overprescribed.
The NSC describes the problem as people taking these pain medications “for too long and in doses too large” with results that are “staggering.”
From NSC medical advisor Dr. Don Teater: “Painkillers don’t kill pain. They kill people.”
Weather-Related Fatal Accidents
From the National Weather Service, we know that the following weather conditions can result in accidental deaths:
- Rip Currents.
According to the new 2017 NSC Injury Facts report, weather-related deaths rose 24 percent.
Here in our part of the country, it’s not news that things like blizzards and tornados can be life-threatening. See our earlier discussion in: Severe Weather and the Danger of Fatal Accidents in Indiana and Illinois.
Of course, sometimes weather conditions overlap with other accident tallies. Summer weather may invite more people to ride motorcycles and increase the risk of a motorcycle fatality. However, this may or may not be considered a weather-related fatal accident.
A clearer example of heat contributing to a fatal accident: hot cars where young children are unable to cope with rising temperatures inside a hot parked car and perish. See, “Hot car deaths continue to rise in the US,” by Cheryl Santa Maria for the Weather Network.
Danger of Accidental Death in Illinois and Indiana
The new Injury Facts Report’s confirmation that accidents – and accidental deaths – are a greater danger now than ever before is a cause of great concern. When will these injustices stop? What must happen to make our roads and workplaces safer? When can we feel confident sending our loved ones for medical care and treatment, or to play sports on their school team?
Representing victims of serious accidents in their pursuit of justice is our honor. Having the trust of those loved ones who are grieving the loss of someone who has perished in a preventable accident is our greatest privilege.
It is horrific to know that someone has died and lost their life because of the negligence and mistakes of another.
Sadly, it appears that all too often, claims and lawsuits will have to be the tools of justice for these victims of fatal accidents. At least for now, the danger of a fatal accident not only remains for Hoosiers and those living in Illinois, it is growing every year. Please, let’s be careful out there!