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4.1: Unintentional Injuries

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    Motor Vehicle Safety: Distracted Driving

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    Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

    What are the types of distraction?

    There are three main types of distraction:

    • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
    • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
    • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

    Distracted driving activities

    Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, applying makeup, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.

    Young adult and teen drivers

    • Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
    • The national The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including sending texts while driving.
      • In 2013, more than two out of five students who drove in the past 30 days sent a text or email while driving.
      • Those who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking.
      • Students who frequently text while driving are more likely to ride with a drinking driver or drink and drive than students who text while driving less frequently.

    What is being done?

    • Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers—to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring. However, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety keeps track of such laws.

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    Home and Recreational Safety


    Although falls can hurt a person at any age, older adults are highly affected by falls. The CDC believes more than one out of four older people falls each year equating to millions of falls for persons over the age of 65. Hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) in older adults and are caused primarily by falls. Falls may be attributed to poor balance, weak muscles and bones, vitamin deficiencies, and visual impairment. To reduce the chances of falls, older adults should talk with their doctors and have their balance and strength tested. To reduce the chances of anyone falling in a home the home should be clutter free, have side rails installed, and have proper lighting.

    Each day about 10 people in the U.S. from unintentional (accidental) drowning. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years.

    Drowning is a problem worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every hour of everyday 40 people die from unintentional drownings. The WHO identifies drowning as a server public health concern especially for low- and middle-income countries. Based on research and evidence, the WHO describes the following 10 actions that can help prevent drowning:


    1. Install barriers controlling access to water.

    2. Provide safe places away from water for pre-school children, with capable child care.

    3. Teach school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills.

    4. Train bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation.

    5. Strengthen public awareness of drowning and highlight the vulnerability of children.


    6. Set and enforce safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations.

    7. Build resilience and manage flood risks and other hazards locally and nationally.

    8. Coordinate drowning prevention efforts with those of other sectors and agendas.

    9. Develop a national water safety plan.


    10. Address priority research questions with well-designed studies.




    A poison is any substance, including medications, that is harmful to your body if too much is eaten, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. In the home, poisonings are commonly caused by the misuse of medications or breathing in Carbon Monoxide (CO). It is very important to use medication as prescribed and store them in a very safe place away from children. Because Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas, it is very important that all buildings be equipped with Carbon Monoxide detectors. Humans and animals may not be aware that they are inhaling Carbon Monoxide until it is too late. CO poisoning typically presents with flu-like symptoms that can quickly make you pass out.

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    Deaths due to fires has declined over the past few years likely due to the use of smoke alarms and education programs on what to do if you are in a fire. The CDC provides the following steps to prevent burns from fires and scalding:

    • Be "alarmed".
      • Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home—on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in. Test your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are working properly. Use long life batteries when possible.
    • Have an escape plan.
      • Create and practice a family fire escape plan, and involve kids in the planning. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside.
    • Cook with care.
      • Use safe cooking practices, such as never leaving food unattended on the stove. Also, supervise or restrict children’s use of stoves, ovens, and especially microwaves.
    • Check water heater temperature.
      • Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Infants and small children may not be able to get away from water that may be too hot, and maintaining a constant thermostat setting can help control the water temperature throughout your home—preventing it from getting too high. Test the water at the tap if possible.

    Contributors and Attributions

    Public Domain Content

    This page titled 4.1: Unintentional Injuries is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kelly Falcone via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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