New CDC Vital Signs Focuses On Vehicle Safety

If you have been on the road this summer, either for work or vacation, you know firsthand how important vehicle safety is to your health. Here’s something I didn’t know until recently: even though U.S. crash rates fell nearly one-third from 2000 to 2013, the United States still had the highest crash death rate among 19 other high-income countries. This was nearly twice that of Belgium, the next-highest country. 

I learned about these statistics through a new Vital Signs report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This issue of Vital Signs also reports that more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year in the United States from motor vehicle crashes.  One in three U.S. crash deaths involve drunk driving, and almost one in three involve speeding.

Vital Signs notes that more than 18,000 lives could be saved each year if U.S. crash deaths equaled the average rate of 19 other high-income countries.  And while solutions to reducing U.S. crash deaths are well known, we don’t always practice them. Here are a few timely reminders from CDC:

  • Use a seat belt in every seat, on every trip, no matter how short
  • Make sure children are properly buckled in the back seat in a car seat, booster seat or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight
  • Once seat belts fit properly, keep kids 12 and under properly buckled in the back seat
  • Choose not to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and help others do the same
  •  Obey speed limits
  • Drive without distractions (such as using a cell phone or texting)

On a related note, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related workplace deaths in America. The CDC Foundation is currently working with CDC to produce a Vehicle Safety Business Pulse—scheduled for release in August—that will share helpful CDC programs for employers that address work-related motor vehicle challenges in the United States and overseas. 

Whether you are in a vehicle for work or personal use, I encourage you to explore the new Vital Signs, and look for the upcoming issue of Business Pulse focused on vehicle safety. The CDC Foundation commends the work of our CDC colleagues who are dedicated to protecting us all from motor vehicle injuries in the United States and around the world.

Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.