Preventable deaths by age: A lifetime of risk

The news media often calls them “accidents” but the National Safety Council calls them “preventable deaths.” The upcoming months of July and August typically record the highest number of preventable deaths – primarily poisonings, car crashes, falls, drowning, choking and fires. And if you are surprised that poisonings are now topping the list, think about fatalities related opioids and other prescription drugs, which are spiking alarmingly in most regions of the country, displacing car crashes as a leading cause of accidental death.

June is National Safety Month, an annual observance sponsored by the National Safety Council. Take this quick interactive Safety Checkup to know your risks. We also liked the “lifetime of Risk” infographic (below) that maps out the highest risks for preventable deaths by age group.

National Safety Month
Provided by the National Safety Council

Fraud Watch: Staged Auto Accidents

In cooperation with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has produced new high definition videos showing some of the most common methods of staging motor vehicle accidents to defraud insurance companies.

According to NICB: “Staged traffic accidents are on the rise, endangering the lives and boosting the car insurance rates of innocent drivers who may unwittingly think they’re at fault. Staged accidents are most common in “no-fault” states such as Florida and New York, where the insured stager can collect for bodily injury from their own car insurance company through their personal injury protection, or PIP, coverage.”

“Staged accidents are usually conducted by organized groups that target drivers and vehicles that are likely to be insured. The organizers frequently recruit participants who receive a cash payment to join in the scheme and to claim they were injured in the crash. The organizers then have the medical providers who are in on the scheme bill the auto insurance companies for medical treatments that may be unnecessary and which may or may not be completed.”

WreckCheck – Handy Mobile App for Car Accidents Eliminates Confusion About What to Do

If you are one of the 5 million people who has the misfortune to be involved in a car accident over the next year, you may not be sure exactly what steps to take to protect yourself. Car accidents are rare enough events that most people don’t have top-of-mind awareness about what information needs to be exchanged. Plus, the stress, confusion and high emotions of the event can be a recipe for problems. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) conducted a survey to find out if consumers know what to do, and they learned most people don’t. Here were some common misconceptions and associated risks:

  • Nearly 40% of respondents felt they should share their driver’s licenses, some allowing the other driver to photograph their licenses. The risk is that many retailers accept driver’s license information as a common way to verify identity over the phone.
  • 25% of consumers would share their home addresses. The risk: this information gives potential identity thieves the physical location of one’s mail or garbage, a place often searched for further financial information; It also means potential criminals know where you live, putting your personal safety in jeopardy.
  • Almost 30% of drivers think they are required to share their personal phone numbers. This is not necessary.
  • Close to 20% believe the only reason to call the police after an accident is if someone is injured. However, filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.

Car Accidents: there’s an app for that!
NAIC offers a WreckCheck mobile app that takes the guesswork out of a post-accident information exchange. When you download the app, enter your vehicle information and info about your agent and insurer. If you are in an accident, launch the app, which will guide you through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. It also offers tips for staying calm, safe and smart on the road, and makes it easy to capture photos and document the necessary information to file an insurance claim. Additionally, the app lets you email yourself a completed accident report directly, as well as to your insurance agents.
The app is free and available for both iPhone® and Android® smartphone users.

Seasonal road hazards: deer, moose and other ruminants

It’s that time of year again: peak deer-car collision season. More than half of all vehicle-deer crashes annually occur in October through December, with November being the peak month. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 150 fatalities each year are caused by vehicle-deer collisions. Deer are fast, unpredictable and can appear out of the blue.

But deer aren’t the only four-legged danger – moose and elk are serious road hazards, too. Larger, taller and with more body mass than deer, a bull moose can reach up to 1500 pounds. And because they are tall with long legs, they often come right in through the windshield when hit, a serious danger to car occupants. See this mammmal size comparison illustration to get an idea of how big moose, elk, deer, and other wildlife can be.

IIHS has issued a chart of fatalities from crashes with animals, tracking from 1975. They note that many of these deaths were preventable:

“Most of the crash deaths occurred after a motor vehicle had struck an animal and then run off the road or a motorcyclist had fallen off a bike. Many of these deaths wouldn’t have occurred with appropriate protection. The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren’t using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren’t wearing helmets.”

Here are some resources to help you assess your state’s relative risk when it comes to large animals in the deer family:
Moose populations in selected states
Elk population by state
Driving tips to avoid colliding with deer and moose

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Be particularly cautions at dawn, dusk. Most collisions occur between 5 and 10 pm.
  • If you see one deer, there may be others – deer travel in herds
  • Heed posted signs warning about wildlife – they are there for a reason
  • Avoid speeding. Slow down around curves
  • Scan the sides of the road – watch for movement.
  • Be particularly alert on roads with woods, farmland, and water
  • Be cautious and slow down at night. You may see deer eyes reflected in your lights, but moose eyes don’t reflect light.
  • Watch other traffic – if you see cars stopped or slowing, it may indicate an animal
  • Flash headlights to warn other drivers
  • Don’t try to outrace or beat a crossing animal
  • Use high beams when you can
  • If you see an animal, honk your horn. Your lights may freeze or confuse an animal.
  • Motorcycles are particularly vulnerable – a cyclist may even be charged by a large animal

What to do if you hit a deer or a moose
Stop your car, put on hazard lights. You want to be visible so that no other car will hit you, your car, or the animal. Avoid approaching an injured animal, which can be very dangerous. In some states, if there are no injuries and your car is drivable, you would not be required to report the collision to the police. If you are unsure of the state law, call police. They will alert game wardens or the appropriate authorities to handle the animal. Some states will let you keep an animal for the meat, but you may need a permit. Report the accident to your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Drivers should be aware that not all auto insurance will cover deer or moose collisions. Comprehensive insurance is required to pay for damage incurred from an animal collision. Some people only have collision coverage and don’t carry comprehensive.

Take the “texting while driving game” to see how you fare with distractions

When it comes to driving distractions like cellphones and texting, most people underestimate the danger that they pose and overestimate their own ability to multitask at the wheel. The New York Times has created a text while driving simulator, an interactive game that measures how your reaction time is affected by external distractions. Try it out and see how you do.
According to a news story accompanying this game, there is extensive research documenting the dangers of distracted driving:

“Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.
A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.
Yet Americans have largely ignored that research. Instead, they increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.”

We’ve previously posted about the increasing trend of states enacting laws against cellphone use and texting while driving along with a chart of state laws banning cellphones and texting while driving.