Category Archives: Safety
A one-of-its-kind pedestrian traffic walk signal recently turned heads in Portugal with a dancing figure that entertained people as they waited for him to tell them when it was safe to cross the street.
The signal—not planned for mass circulation anytime soon—was developed by the manufacturer Smart to advertise its cars’ safety features. And if it saves lives along the way, it’s in sync with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that 4,432 pedestrians died in traffic crashes in 2011, up 3 percent from 2010. More than a quarter of the accidents resulting in death happened at traffic intersections, both at marked crosswalks and intersections with traffic lights. Andrea Gielen, PhD, head of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University, says the school’s research shows that many of these accidents occur because pedestrians are distracted by music in their earphones or by speaking or texting on cellphones.
NHTSA began a campaign to keep pedestrians safer last year and highlights community projects that improve pedestrian safety in a stories section on its website on pedestrian safety. One project, developed at University of California, San Diego, was a presentation at a low-income elementary public school in San Diego, Calif. The English- and Spanish-language presentation demonstrated dangerous scenarios and how to prevent them, such as kids dressed in only dark clothing, which makes them difficult to see at night. NHTSA is updating the site regularly to help communities develop their own safe walking programs.
As for traffic lights themselves, makeovers could be ahead. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences has a traffic light subcommittee that presents new research on traffic signal safety at the board’s annual meeting each January. Upcoming topics of interest are likely to include computerized traffic signals that can respond to traffic flow by switching to green sooner when there’s no congestion ahead, as well as a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that found that traffic lights are easily hacked, which could lead to traffic jams and collisions. Preventing some of the hacking could be as simple as strengthening the passwords of the engineers who control the traffic signals, according to computer engineers at MIT.
Wendy Landman, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group Walk Boston, says intersections could be safer if city agencies talked more. She said the deciding factor for how long a traffic signal should be green for pedestrians is often based on how quickly traffic experts think drivers want to be back on the gas pedal—but that may be too short for many pedestrians, especially at intersections on main roads.
>>Bonus Content: Read a previous NewPublicHealth interview with Andrea Gielen.
Sexual assaults on college campuses have grabbed headlines in recent months and for good reason: One in five U.S. women are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted during their college years, often during their freshman or sophomore year and often by someone they know. Last winter, President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. This marked a call to action to help prevent sexual assaults on campuses; to help schools respond effectively when an assault does occur; and strengthen federal enforcement efforts, including the launch of a website to make with various resources for students and schools.
Meanwhile, various colleges and universities have stepped up their own sexual assault prevention efforts. The Indiana Campus Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Project guides Indiana colleges and universities in the prevention of sexual violence through education and technical assistance; as well as the promotion of bystander intervention skills and healthy, respectful relationships.
Earlier this year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst launched a program called UMatter at UMass, which promotes “active bystander intervention” to prevent sexual assaults. The program uses “Three Ds” to help someone who witnesses a situation where a sexual assault is threatened know what to do:
- “Direct": Stepping in and confronting dangerous behavior in a direct and clear—but non-confrontational—way
- “Distract”: Using tactics that will divert behavior before it becomes violent or harmful
- “Delegate”: Enlisting help from acquaintances or law enforcement professionals to help prevent an assault
“Our simple starting point was our determination to build a more caring community, cementing the idea that we care about each other at UMass and that we demonstrate that care without first having a crisis or tragedy,” said Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life at UMass. “With active bystanders, we want to reinforce a culture of active engagement. This is a very specific concept. The idea is that students have to take an active role in monitoring their environment and being engaged and caring about each other.”
Ebola Update: U.S. Doctor Being Treated for Ebola Expected to Be Released from the Hospital Today
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Reuters and other news outlets are reporting that Kent Brantly, MD, who contracted Ebola in Liberia where he was treating patients for the disease, has recovered from the virus and is expected to be released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta today. An update on the condition of Nancy Writebol, a health worker who also contracted Ebola in West Africa, is also expected today. Since the start of the current outbreak in West Africa, more than 1,350 people have died of the disease. In an effort to reduce the spread of the disease, officials in Monrovia, the densely populated urban capital of Liberia, began a quarantine to stem the disease outbreak, sparking clashes between residents and troops. Read more on Ebola.
Many Older ER Patients Show Signs of Malnutrition
A new study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that many patients over age 65 who go to the emergency room for medical care are also found to be malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. The study authors say the reasons behind the insufficient nutrition include dental problems that make it difficult to eat, depression and lack of access to food. The study suggests that all older patients be assessed for malnutrition during emergency room visits. Read more on aging.
Free Online Search Tool from DOT Lets Consumers Check Vehicle Safety
The U.S. Department of Transportation has released a free, online search tool—accessible at www.safercar.gov—that consumers can use to find out whether a vehicle, including a motorcycle, has been recalled by using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Consumers can find their vehicle identification number by looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle, or on the driver’s side door where the door latches when it is closed. After entering the VIN number into the search tool, a message indicating whether the vehicle was recalled will appear, which will let users choose not to buy or rent the car, or if they own it or are planning to buy it, to have it fixed according to the recall specifics. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working with the National Automobile Dealers Association to make sure that the VIN tool is used by all U.S. car dealerships. Read more on safety.
This week, NewPublicHealth will run a series on new and creative public health campaigns that aim to improve the health of communities across the country through the use of public service announcements, infographics and more. Stay tuned to learn more about a new campaign each day.
Each day in 2010 approximately two children ages 12 and younger were killed in car crashes and another 325 were injured. If the correct child safety seats were used and installed properly, that death rate could be cut by more than 50 percent. Proper use of car seats reduces the risk of death by 71 percent in infants and by 54 percent among toddlers ages one to four, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of booster seats decreases the risk of serious injury by 45 percent among kids ages four to eight, compared to just using seatbelts in this age group.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) and the Ad Council’s Child Passenger Safety campaign urges parents and caregivers of children under age 12 to secure their kids in the best possible car restraint system for their age and size.
Through a series of television, radio, print, outdoor and digital PSAs, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of using the correct restraints for children, whether it’s a rear-facing car seat (for babies up to age one), a forward-facing car seat (for kids up to age five), a booster seat (for ages five to 12) or a seatbelt for older kids. The PSAs direct viewers to the Parents Central website, where they can find out whether their children are in age- and size-appropriate car seats and learn how to install the car seats properly.
Child Passenger Safety Week, from September 14-20, will also feature free car seat inspection events throughout the country to help people learn how to install and use them properly.
>>Bonus Links: Read previous NewPublicHealth coverage on child car seat safety:
Flu Vaccine Reduces Risk of Child’s Flu-Related ICU Hospitalization by 74 Percent
Receiving a flu vaccine dramatically reduces a child’s risk of flu-related intensive care hospitalization, according to a new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed the medical records of 216 children age 6 months through 17 years admitted to 21 pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the United States during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 flu seasons, finding that the a flu vaccination reduces the risk of being admitted to a PICU by 74 percent. “These study results underscore the importance of an annual flu vaccination, which can keep your child from ending up in the intensive care unit,” said Alicia Fry, MD, a medical officer in CDC’s Influenza Division. “It is extremely important that all children—especially children at high risk of flu complications—are protected from what can be a life-threatening illness." Kids younger than 5 and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or developmental delays are at especially high risk of serious flu complications. Read more on influenza.
CDC Releases Expansive Salmonella Report for Researchers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an expansive, first-of-its kind report charting the past four decades of laboratory-confirmed surveillance data on 32 Salmonella serotypes. An Atlas of Salmonella in the United States, 1968-2011, includes data and analysis by age, sex, season and geography down to the county level. The report is available both online and in a downloadable format. Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths each year in the United States. “We hope these data allow researchers and others to assess what has happened and to think more about how we can reduce Salmonella infections in the future,” said Robert Tauxe, MD, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “The more we understand Salmonella, the more we can make progress in fighting it all along the farm to table chain.” Read more on research.
GlaxoSmithKline Recalling Alli Non-Prescription Weight-Loss Drug Amid Reports of Tampering
GlaxoSmithKline is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in recalling all supplies of its non-prescription weight-loss drug Alli in the United States and Puerto Rico, after reports that some bottles had been tampered with and may not contain authentic Alli. The drug comes in a turquoise-blue capsule, but the company has received inquiries from consumers in seven U.S. states about bottles containing a range of tablets and capsules of various shapes and colors. Read more on safety.
Decrease in Pediatric Antibiotic Leveling Off
The number of children taking antibiotics has decreased over the past decade, but that decrease has stalled in recent years in certain age groups and geographic locations, according to a study in Pediatrics. Researchers reviewed pharmacy and outpatient claims over a 10-year period (2000 to 2010) in three health plans located in three different geographic locations to determine the number of antibiotics dispensed each year for children ages 3 months to 18 years. Although the overall antibiotic-dispensing rate in each age group and health plan was lower in 2009-2010 than in 2000-2001, the rate of decline in antibiotic use has slowed. The highest rate of antibiotic use was in children age 3 months to less than 24 months of age in all years of the study.
The study authors say the previous downward trend in antibiotic use in children may have reached a plateau, and continued improvements in judicious antibiotic dispensing are needed. Read more on pediatrics.
NHTSA Gives Okay for Vehicle to Vehicle Communication to Help Prevent Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will begin taking steps to allow vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles, which will allow vehicles to "talk" to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.
The safety applications currently being developed provide warnings to drivers so that they can prevent imminent collisions, but do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, such as braking or steering, although NHTSA is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors.
V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness to address additional crash situations — including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or in which a vehicle approaching at an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect threats hundreds of yards from other vehicles that cannot be seen, often in situations in which on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat. Read more on transportation.
Many Hospital ICUs Don't Follow Infection Prevention Rules
While most hospitals have evidence-based guidelines in place to prevent health care-associated infections in intensive care units (ICUs), clinicians often fail to follow them according to new research from the Columbia University School of Nursing published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study, on over 1600 ICUs, found lax compliance in intensive care units where patients are more likely to be treated with devices linked to preventable infections – such as central lines, urinary catheters and ventilators.
The study focused on three of the most common preventable infections — central line-associated bloodstream infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections and determined that despite decades of research, establishing best practices for prevention of these infections, approximately one in 10 hospitals lack checklists to prevent bloodstream infections, and one in four lack checklists to help avoid pneumonia in ventilator patients, and that in hospitals with checklists, they are followed only about half of the time.
Health care-associated infections kill an estimated 100,000 Americans a year and result in over $30 billion in excess medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on injury prevention.
Interactive Map Helps Communities Prepare for Peaks in Flu Cases
Flu season for most of the country should peak in January, according to a new website that utilizes modern weather prediction technology to turn real-time influenza estimates into 94 local forecasts of future flu activity. The website was developed by infectious disease experts at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. By predicting when areas are likely to see the highest incidence of flu cases, public health officials can better manage medicine and other supplies.
The website features:
- Interactive U.S. map that displays the relative severity of seasonal flu in cities across the country flu and incidence numbers for each
- Influenza incidence predictions by city for the coming weeks
- Map that illustrates the proportion of flu cases by region
- Charts that compare the timing and severity of the four most recent flu seasons
- Exportable data for each week of the flu season (beginning in 9/29 for the 2013-2014 season)
Read more on influenza.
Minority Children Less Likely to Be in Car, Booster Seats Properly
Minority children are less likely than white children to be put into car seats and booster seats as recommended, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Potential reasons for the disparity include both access to resources and social norms. "We expected that differences in family income, parental education, and sources of information would explain the racial disparities in age-appropriate restraint use and they did not," lead author Michelle L. Macy, MD, according to Reuters. According to a survey of 600 parents with kids ages one to 12, among four- to seven-year-olds, twice as many non-white kids sat in the front seat as white kids; 10 percent of the kids in that age group overall had sat in the front seat. The study also found that 3 percent of kids under age four and 34 percent ages eight to 12 had sat in the front seat, although there were no differences based on race for these groups. Read more on safety.
Study: Access to Firearms Increases Risk of Suicide and Homicide
A person with access to a gun is three times more likely to commit suicide and about twice as likely to be murdered than someone without such access, according to a new study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed 15 previous gun studies—13 from the United States—looking at intentional acts of violence. They also adjusted the past studies for the likelihood of mental illness. "If you have a firearm readily available and something bad has happened to you, you might make a rash, impulsive decision that will have a bad outcome," said lead author Andrew Anglemyer, a specialist in study design and data analytics in clinical pharmacy and global health sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. "These are just normal gun owners, and we are seeing that gun owners are making very bad, impulsive decisions." Each year the United States sees approximately 31,000 deaths due to firearms. Read more on violence.
NIH: 10 Percent of Driving Time Spent Distracted by Secondary Tasks
About 10 percent of an average driver’s time behind the wheel is spent engaged in something besides focusing on the road, which is especially dangerous for younger drivers, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Common distractions include eating, reaching for a phone, texting, or simply taking their eyes off the road. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Virginia Tech used video technology and in-vehicle sensors to determine their findings. “Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can be dangerous,” said study co-author Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute where the study was conducted. “But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel.” The study found that novice drivers were:
- Eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing
- Seven to eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when reaching for a phone or other object,
- Almost four times more likely to crash or have a near miss when texting, and
- Three times more likely to crash or have a near miss when eating.
Read more on transportation.
Study: Tripling Global Tobacco Taxes Could Prevent 200M Premature Deaths
Tripling the taxes on tobacco could prevent 200 million premature deaths worldwide while dramatically cutting into the total number of smokers, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Approximately 1.3 billion people smoke; tobacco currently kills about 6 million people per year, with that total expected to climb to more than 8 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. To support their findings, scientists from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) pointed to success in France, where raising taxes well above inflation reduced smoking by half from 1990 to 2005. "The two certainties in life are death and taxes. We want higher tobacco taxes and fewer tobacco deaths," said Richard Peto, the CRUK epidemiologist who led the study. "It would help children not to start, and it would help many adults to stop while there's still time." Read more on tobacco.
HUD Grants to Help Families Get Access to Education, Job Training, Employment
This week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded approximately $57 million in grants as part of its Housing Choice Voucher Program, which will go toward helping residents gain access to education, job training and employment. The grants will be used to hire or retain more than one thousand service coordinators who will work to connect the families with the supportive services. “This is a modest investment that can make a world of difference for families looking to find their path to self-sufficiency,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “As America’s economy continues to recover, it’s critical that we work to make sure every American has the skills and resources they need to successfully compete for jobs in the 21st Century.” Under the program, participants sign a five-year contract requiring the head of the household to obtain employment and no longer receive welfare assistance by the end of the contract. Read more on housing.
Many Still Have Signup Options for Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act
Although the December 23 signup deadline for health insurance coverage beginning January 1 has passed, the White House announced on Christmas Eve that signup has been extended for several days for anyone who was unable to complete their online application because of heavy traffic on the site. States and insurers may impose their own deadlines, however, so people not enrolled should reach out to their state insurance hotlines by calling 800-318-2596. Additional information options include clicking the “what is the marketplace in my state” or “live chat” features on the healthcare.gov home page.
The absolute deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage with no financial penalty is March 31, 2014, but signup after Jan 1, 2014 will generally result in coverage beginning a little later in the year. However there is no deadline for people signing up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment for those coverage options, for those that qualify, is open throughout the year, with no penalties assessed.
Professional Truck Drivers Offer Safety Tips for Holiday Travel
America's Road Team Captains, members of the American Trucking Associations who are elite professional truck drivers with millions of accident-free miles, have advice on how to navigate through highway traffic and winter driving conditions during the busy holiday driving season. Their tips include:
- Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road before you leave your home.
- Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
- Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
- Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.
- Pack your emergency kit: Contents should include a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.
- Check the weather: Be aware of changes in weather during your travel even if it’s just a trip of a few hours. Temperatures can drop and rain and fog can develop since you got started on the road. Check weather conditions before you leave and each time you stop.
- Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.
Read more on transportation.
CPSC Recommends Checking to See if Winter Gear, Gifts, Have Been Recalled
As you pull out winter clothes or start to use holiday gifts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends you first check to see if anything you or your family will be using was recalled for a safety hazard. Items recalled in 2013 include children’s clothing with appliques and toys with small pieces that can pose choking risks. Read more on injury prevention.
We hate to be the bearers of buzz kill, but folks should think about adding “safety” to their holiday wish lists this year. Researchers at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say there are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Last year the most frequently reported holiday accidents seen in emergency departments involved falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%). And from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to an average of 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item ignited—resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss for those years. Candle-related fires during holidays between 2009 and 2011 resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.
Best tips for avoiding Holiday fires: discard sets of holiday lights with evidence of damage such as broken sockets and bare wires; water Christmas trees frequently; and always extinguish candles before leaving a room.
Here are our top five safety tips for the holidays culled from the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration: