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Global news highlights
  1. Barry Pless
  1. Correspondence to Dr Barry Pless, Retired, 434 Lansdowne, Westmount, Quebec H3Y2V2, Canada; barry.pless{at}

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People in the news

Pam Albany, 1951–2011

As did many others in the injury prevention community, I got to know Pam through her involvement in the Third World Conference in 1996. I continued to follow and admire her work, especially on behalf of indigenous communities. Pam greatly contributed to injury prevention in Australia. Some of her early successes involved bicycle helmet legislation and swimming pool fencing. She helped bring Safe Communities to Australia and worked for the National Injury Surveillance Unit while preparing Australia to host the World Conference. Pam also contributed substantially to the Second International Conference in Atlanta. She worked on the WHO-UNICEF World Report on Child Injury Prevention and helped establish the Australian Injury Prevention Network. Pam encouraged, nurtured and mentored younger colleagues. She will be greatly missed.

Barenyi: a name you should know

Bela Barenyi was an engineer who many view as the father of passive safety. At Daimler-Benz he was given free reign to develop a comprehensive car safety program. Of his 2500 inventions for the automobile industry, the most important was his idea of dividing cars into collision zones. He believed a rigid passenger cell enclosed by crumple zones would absorb the impact of a collision. Barenyi also introduced protection against side impacts and is credited with work on the seat belt. He was recognised by the Automotive Hall of Fame as one of the greatest contributors to public safety. Just before his death in 1997, Mercedes publicly thanked him in an advertisement. The caption below his image read: “No one in the world has given more thought to car safety than this man.”

Sue Baker: a name you do know

Guohua Li and Susan Baker assembled global experts to write about the latest advances in theories and methods for understanding the causes, mechanisms and outcomes of injury, and the strategies to prevent them. Injury Research: Theories, Methods, and Approaches, is described as a ‘bedrock text’ for researchers. As well, Baker was recently featured in a 4000-word New York Times article describing her accomplishments.

Billie Weiss

Associate Director of the Southern California Injury Prevention Research Program at the UCLA School of Public Health was named a Woman's History Month honoree.

Barry Pless

Your old (in both senses) editor is pleased to announce that in June he received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Western Ontario. The ‘citation’ makes reference to his efforts to promote injury prevention, and to this journal.

Documentary on dangerous driving

Pierre Arcand, a former radio host in Montreal, has captured attention with a hard-hitting documentary on dangerous driving. ‘Derapages’ addresses “the thorny issue of bad behaviour among young drivers in Quebec” and begins with scenes of a horrific crash that killed four young men. He avoided statistics and charts because “I want young people to recognise themselves in the film.” It will be interesting to see whether the target audience views it or shies away from this film. A review by a physician suggests that ‘it's effective … but stylistically weak.’ (B Kelly, Gazette, April 26, 2012).

Canada's gun registry debate continues

As announced earlier, Canada's Tory government has decreed that not only will the long gun registry be scrapped, but also all the records are to be destroyed. Quebec, where the massacres that precipitated the registry occurred, disagrees, and has filed suit to prevent the destruction of the records with a view to possibly continuing the registry alone. A superior court recently extended a temporary injunction ordering the Federal Government to continue registering guns in Quebec, reasoning that “The beneficial effects of maintaining the registry in Quebec appear greater than the urgency of applying the new law.”

CDC revises lead level risk levels

After 20 years under the same guidelines, the CDC has reduced by 50% the level of blood lead that is considered potentially harmful to children of ages 1–5. The upper level is now set at 5 μg per deciliter. Under this new guideline, the patient population will increase to about 442 000 from 77 000. The new levels come at a time when funding to CDC has been sharply reduced, and funding for lead poisoning was slashed 94%. The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has gone from 26 to 6 full-time employees.

The Hodving—a fashionable, airbag-bike helmet

I almost dismissed this as a hoax, and then thought I wrote about it before. Even if I did, it is worth another mention. The link below describes the Hövding as “a bicycle helmet unlike any other … ergonomic, practical, complies with all safety requirements, and blends in with what else you are wearing.” The picture shows a collar that contains an airbag shaped like a hood. The collar is triggered by sensors that respond to abnormal movements. The blurb concludes by noting that the collar is “covered by a removable shell that you can change to match your outfit…. a practical accessory that's easy to carry around, it's got a great-looking yet subtle design, and it will save your life.” Check it out and decide for yourself.

Sri Lankan approach to prevention

Although Colombo is one of the safest cities in Asia, road injury fatalities have increased, and about 60% involve pedestrians. A former police director notes that most crashes in Sri Lanka are due to ‘speeding’ and ‘rash and reckless driving’, or the poor condition of the vehicle. As well, he notes that “Drivers love to tip off an oncoming vehicle if a traffic policeman is present somewhere.” Lack of sleep also contributes heavily to crashes. During an exhibition in Anuradhapura, almost all the crashes occurred because the drivers got little sleep in their haste to make as many trips as possible to the exhibition city. Private bus drivers are a threat to road safety because they ‘race’ each other to collect passengers. A recent law will penalise traffic offenders using a points system similar to that used in many other countries with points leading to suspensions and possible permanent cancellations of the license.

CDC reports decline in childhood injury fatalities

CDC released a report describing the annual unintentional injury death rate among those younger than 19 years for the period from 2000 to 2009. There was a fall of 29%, and the decline was noted in all age groups except those <1 year where there was an increase from 23.1 to 27.7 per 100 000 mostly due to suffocations. Among teens, the death rate due to poisoning also nearly doubled, and was attributed to an increase in prescription drug overdoses. Motor vehicle traffic-related death rates declined 41%. The bad news is that, among states, there were great differences; unintentional injury death rates range from 4.0 to 25.1 per 100 000. It is hoped that a National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention will yield further improvements.

Holland's approach to speeding

The Dutch Ministry for infrastructure and the environment recently launched a new series of TV commercials that make it clear that drivers who speed are responsible for injuries that follow. The ads declare “There is no excuse for speeding when another person's safety is at stake (especially) in built up areas.” The website explains that these are areas “where there are always unexpected traffic situations…and where you have to deal with … children, the elderly and cyclists. They are not protected by airbags or seat belts so they are the ones who have the largest risk to get seriously injured. Or worse…” Viewers are reminded that greater speed means greater harm, and for a child, an increase of 10 kmh can mean the difference between life and death. Fines reflect this for example, when driving at 50 kph in a 30-kph zone, the driver would be fined 232 euros (US$305.74). Driving more than 30 kph over the speed limit may result in the driver's license being revoked.

Report cards from European Child Safety Alliance (ECSA)

ECSA of Eurosafe launched its report cards for about 30 European countries last June. In 14 countries this report will be the third such report, thus permitting trends to be observed. The 2012 Report Cards and Profiles describe: (1) how well a country is doing to make it safe for children; (2) the gaps in action …that need to be addressed and (3) which good practices should be adopted. These report cards received the European Health Award from the European Health Forum Gastein in 2011.

State injury prevention policies ranked

Not to be outdone, the US also has issued report cards. The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scored all states injury prevention policies and ranked them. Twenty-four states scored five or lower on the 10 steps assessed. These included whether the state had enacted bicycle helmets for children; the existence of prescription drug monitoring programs; and whether a state has enacted strong laws to prevent teen dating violence. California and New York scored highest, while Montana and Ohio scored the lowest. The report was produced by a committee of experts from the Safe States Alliance and the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Prevention (SAVIR). It concludes that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.

Preventing child heatstroke in cars

As summer approaches in the US, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun a campaign to alert parents to the danger of heatstroke when a child is left in a car. Ads urge parents to think “Where's baby? Look before you lock.” Remarkably, the news release states that “Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14.” NHTSA will later release findings on the effectiveness of after-market products intended to prevent these occurrences. The public is urged to call 911 if they see a child alone in a hot vehicle.

Florida self-defense law scrutinised

Seven years ago, Florida adopted a sweeping self-defense law, one of 21 such laws in the USA. The NRA supported it; law enforcement opposed it. The law justifies a shooting if the person threatened feels they are in imminent danger regardless of where the killing occurred. Since the law was passed, the number of defendants who claim self-defense has increased. The self-defense homicide cases are often hard to sort out because the gunman's side of the story usually prevails because the dead victim cannot challenge it. The situation in Florida is exceptional because of its expansive gun-rights laws. The usual label for the law in question ‘stand your ground’ is politically charged, and a Brady spokesperson suggested that a more accurate label would be ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’.

Unsafe products link on ECSA website

ECSA now has an “Unsafe Products and Recalls” button on the front page of its website linking to weekly European Commission unsafe product reports. The most common articles include toys, clothing and childcare articles, including babywalkers! ECSA encourages individuals and authorities to report all injuries caused by faulty or poorly designed products, and calls for enforcement of new and existing regulations.

Road safety reflects tough laws

I have always believed that legislation is a powerful tool in injury prevention. Data from two areas with tough road safety laws, Sweden and Ontario, appear to support that view. In Quebec recent improvements have been attributed to tougher drink-driving, speeding and cell phone laws, as well as the greater use of photo radar. However, Quebec's death rate of 6 per 100 000 is still well above Sweden's 2.8/100 000.

More women driving impaired

A report in the Nation's Health states that fatal alcohol-related car crashes have increased among young women drivers such that there is no longer a gender gap. The report from a journal article notes that “the total number of young men involved in fatal alcohol-related wrecks is still greater because men drink more, (but) at a given blood-alcohol level, young women now appear to have the same risk of being involved in a fatal crash as their male peers.” The study also found that the risk of fatal crashes had doubled among sober 16-year-old male drivers. One co-author speculated that it may reflect distraction. “…. we think it may be related to texting and the other new technologies they are using so much.”

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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