Month in and month out, the top two mechanism of injury, or causes of traumatic injuries, are motor vehicles crashes and falls. The bad news is that these two causes account for the majority of significant injuries in our area. The good news is that they can often be prevented.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents are the leading cause of death among those aged 5 to 34 in the United States. The most reliable method of saving lives and preventing injuries from occurring is to wear a seat belt. However, millions of drivers and passengers choose not to wear seat belts on every day occasions.
When it comes to motor vehicle crashes, be aware that many accidents can be prevented by avoiding driving impaired. Besides the commonly recognized causes of impairment – drugs or alcohol, there are other less insidious causes such as driving while fatigued or distracted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries annually.
A driver who has been awake for 18 hours has the equivalent impairment of a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 (0.08 is considered legally drunk). “Sleepiness causes auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel. Critical aspects of driving impairment associated with sleepiness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing,” states nhtsa.gov.
While motor vehicle accidents are among the top trauma emergencies, falls are another leading cause of serious injury through the life span, but are most prominent in the very young and in older adults. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries. According to the CDC, “millions of adults aged 65 and older fall. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death.”
Older adults can stay independent and reduce their chances of falling by exercising regularly to improve strength and balance. Adults should talk with their primary care provider to identify medications that can cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
Medications and medical conditions such as previous strokes, Parkinson’s disease, low blood pressure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, arthritis, vision problems, and mental confusion can all increase the risk of falls. Have regular eye exams and reduce tripping hazards in the home. While physical conditions such as muscle weakness, balance or gait problems, and dizziness increase risk, our environment, including clutter, throw rugs, poor lighting, and wet floors, are common hazards in the home that increase risk of significant and/or fatal injuries.
At Portneuf Medical Center, we are dedicated to ensuring patients get our full expertise, resources and focus to preserve and enhance lives. We are committed to providing quality care in the air, in our emergency department and delivering a continuity of excellence in emergency care from the minute 911 is called until that individual is admitted to our emergency department.
Portneuf recently received verification from the American College of Surgeon as a Level II Trauma Center. This verification represents a validation of several years of work and collaboration between the physicians, staff and administration to provide the highest level of care to the residents and visitors of southeast Idaho. We continue on a daily basis to refine our processes, improve our training, and work with other providers to ensure we provide world class care to all trauma patients. With a highly trained and well-staffed emergency department, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we are here for you if and when you need us.
Greg Vickers serves as the Trauma and EMS Program Manager at Portneuf Medical Center.