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News and Notes

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Dr Shanthi Ameratunga has been appointed to the position of director of the Injury Prevention Research Centre, University of Auckland, with effect from from 1 December 2005.

After 15 years at the helm Professor John Langley has decided it is time to stand aside as director of the Injury Prevention and Research Unit at the University of Otago in New Zealand. John intends to continue to undertake injury research but from July 2007 this is likely to be on a part time basis. Information about the Director’s position is available at www.otago.ac.nz/vacancies/.

CHANGES TO US VEHICLE SAFETY

As a result of a transportation bill signed into law by President Bush in August, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will collect data on non-traffic and non-crash tragedies. This means a child who is run over in a driveway, suffocates in a trunk, or gets trapped in a power window becomes an official statistic, which could help fix dangerous equipment or manufacturing methods. Furthermore, NHTSA will look for ways to reduce back over accidents, which kill or injure hundreds of children every year, not to mention all the bumpers that get bent in non-lethal run-ins. And finally, by 2007 all vehicles must have power window switches that can only be pulled up or out, reducing the risk that a child, leaning out of the window, will accidentally activate a push down or toggle switch and crush his or her head, neck, or extremities.

DVD ON CHILD CAR SAFETY

Ireland’s National Safety Council, with support by Opel Ireland, has produced a DVD, Child safety in cars. The DVD is designed to help parents choose the correct child restraint for children between the ages of 0 and 14 years and, with the help of experts, how to fit it safely into the car. 50 000 DVDs are being produced to be distributed among maternity hospitals for inclusion in mother-to-be demonstrations, GP surgeries, public health clinics, crèches, and Opel dealers. It is also available from the National Safety Council (info{at}nsc.ie).

LAUNCH OF THE PAN-CANADIAN INJURY PREVENTION STRATEGY

The Canadian national strategy for injury prevention and a report, Ending Canada’s invisible epidemic: a strategy to reduce and control injuries, were launched in October 2005. Both documents are available via www.injurypreventionstrategy.ca. Over the past 24 months, hundreds of injury prevention stakeholders across Canada have been consulted and involved in the development of a comprehensive framework for a workable, pan-Canadian injury prevention strategy. The scene is now set for political decision makers to take the lead in moving Canada to the forefront of injury prevention.

SAFEHOME UPGRADED

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) has launched the upgraded home safety program, Safehome. The free service has been boosted to provide important fire and household safety information to Queensland’s 1.3 million homes, and is supported through a new partnership between the QFRS and insurance provider, NRMA Insurance. The QFRS has expanded the range of safety information offered as part of the Safehome visit and will continue to offer it to Queensland households at no cost. Not only does the product focus on fire safety information, it also addresses householder concerns relating to falls, poisoning, burns and scalds, driveway run overs, pool safety, and insurance.

ACTION ON ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES WEBSITE

The Action on Accidents and Injuries website, an initiative of the Working Party on Accidents and Injuries (WP-AI) aims to support public health activities that seek to reduce all accidents and injuries in the European Union. The website is targeted at a broad group of interested parties from injury prevention experts to stakeholders, from politicians to European citizens. Action on Accidents and Injuries is supported by DG Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission. Visit www.actiononinjuries.org.

US POSTAL SERVICE PROMOTES CHILD PASSENGER SAFETY

The margins of a sheet of commemorative stamps issued in September highlighting child health include advice on child passenger safety. Visit http://tinyurl.com/9rbgv for more information.

NEW ZEALAND DROWNING PREVENTION STRATEGY RELEASED

In August the Minister for the Accident Compensation Commission released the New Zealand drowning strategy, hailing it as a "landmark". On average 130 people drown in New Zealand every year—a toll that has massive social and economic implications for the country. New Zealand has the highest rate of youth drowning (ages 1–14) compared with other OECD nations. According to a recent report released by the Child Youth and Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC), the highest rates of drowning were in the 1–4 year age group, at 6.9 per 100 000. A number of these little New Zealanders tragically lose their lives in pools, baths, and buckets. Further information and updated statistics on drowning are available at: www.watersafety.org.nz. The latest report from CYMRC can be downloaded from www.newhealth.govt.nz/cymrc/Documents/watersafetyreport.pdf.

FEWER PEOPLE DIE ON SWISS ROADS THANKS TO NEW DRINK DRIVING LAWS

Tough new laws on drink driving in Switzerland have made a real impact on road safety, according to new statistics. Switzerland’s accident prevention bureau, or BPA, says the number of people killed on the road in this country dropped by 22% in the first half of 2005, when compared with the same period in 2004. And to explain the improvement, experts are pointing to the recent change in the law which lowered the legal blood alcohol limit for driving from 0.8 parts per 1000 to 0.5. The new restriction was introduced on the first of January 2005. Although 30 people have died in Switzerland this year due to alcohol related road accidents, it is a 42% drop compared with the same period last year.

CHILD SAFETY SEATS NOT REQUIRED ON US AIRPLANES

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in August that it will not mandate the use of child safety seats on airplanes because of the increased safety risk to families. The agency said its analyses showed that, if forced to purchase an extra airline ticket, families might choose to drive, a statistically more dangerous way to travel.

NHTSA PUBLISHES HELMET LAW STUDY

The NHTSA released a new 219 page study of bicycle helmet laws in September. The study was done by independent researcher Carol Stroebel. She examined six communities where helmet laws of various kinds had been passed, including one where it was subsequently repealed. The study analyzes the findings in 20 pithy pages titled “analysis, providing acres of detail if you need it”. Some of the themes that emerged are:

  • The major stakeholders in enacting a law are usually emergency medicine professionals, pediatricians, and a coalition focused on children’s safety, injury prevention, or bicycling and bicycle safety.

  • The bicycling community has been divided at times on this issue, and law enforcement, although usually not deeply involved, may have a "make-or-break" role.

  • Typically, few citations are issued under these laws and they are not a priority for enforcement agencies.

  • Even though the laws may be little enforced, they are seen as valuable leverage (especially for parents) for increasing bicycle helmet use.

  • The evolving role of bicycling and the bicycling community in the changing transportation mix will influence the strategies, issues, and constituents involved in future bicycle safety efforts.

To increase the effectiveness of the laws the study suggests that law enforcement must make the law a priority; if the law is not enforced, it loses its effectiveness; on-going efforts in education and awareness are needed, similar to those supporting safety belt laws; proponents should educate the news media about the need for the law; the public needs to be better educated on the physics of injury; and those implementing the law must “continuously deliver the message” about bicycle helmet use and the law. The study report can be accessed via http://tinyurl.com/b9hj6.

CONCUSSION PREVENTION TOOLKIT

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a new multimedia educational toolkit to protect teen athletes from a serious but often underestimated health threat—concussion. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. More than 300 000 sports and recreation related TBIs occur in the US each year. This initiative, “Heads up: concussion in high school sports”, includes information to prevent concussions and identify symptoms and immediate steps to take when an athlete is showing signs of a concussion. For more information about the toolkit and to download it visit http://tinyurl.com/a6w2c.

LAW MAKERS LIMIT CAR CRASH DATA

New laws in Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas are limiting who can use information collected by Event Data Recorders (EDRs), which record a car’s speed and the response of seat belts, brakes, and air bags in an accident. The new laws are intended to protect the car owner’s privacy by requiring either the owner’s permission or a court order to release EDR data to law enforcement or insurance companies. Increasingly, law makers across the US are worried that EDR data will be misused. Currently, 15% of all cars on US roads, and up to 90% of 2004 model cars have the devices installed.

Contributors to these News and notes include Ian Scott, Joseph Colella, David Walsh, Mariana Brussoni, and Barry Pless. Michael Hayes has edited the contributions. Items for future issues, including calendar entries, should be sent to Michael Hayes at the Child Accident Prevention Trust, 22–26 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3AJ, UK; fax +44 (0)20 7608 3674; email mike.hayes{at}capt.org.uk, as soon as possible.

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