May 22, 2012 -- When it comes to injury prevention -- with tougher policies on such things as seatbelt use, bike helmets and drunk driving -- New York and California lead the way, according to a new report released today by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The report ranks states on steps taken to reduce the risk of accidental injury, the country's fifth-leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There are proven, evidence-based strategies that can spare millions of Americans from injuries each year," Trust executive director Jeff Levi said in a statement. "This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer."
New York and California scored nine out of 10 on a list of injury prevention policies. Eighteen states lack primary seat belt laws; 29 states do not require bicycle helmets for children; 31 states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders; and 34 states and Washington, D.C. do not require mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers, according to the report.
"Seat belts, helmets, drunk driving laws and a range of other strong prevention policies and initiatives are reducing injury rates around the country," Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance, said in a statement. "However, we could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies."
The rankings also reflect anti-violence and sport safety laws as well as prescription drug monitoring programs.
While New York and California earned top scores, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington tied for second place with scores of eight out of 10. Montana and Ohio ranked last with scores of two out of 10.
The report says state policies aimed at curbing accidents and violence pay off in the number of lives saved. New York has an annual accidental injury rate of 37.1 per 100,000 people compared to Montana's 86.5, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 57.9 deaths due to injury per 100,000 people.
"While tremendous progress has been made in preventing and treating injury, it remains a leading cause of death for people of all ages and the number one cause of death for children," Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a statement. "Texting while driving, the increasing numbers of falls in older adults, domestic violence and the astonishing rise in misuse of prescription drugs mean we need to redouble our efforts to make safety research and policy a national priority."