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Car crashes should be a global health priority, scientists say

Study says crashes should be a global health priority.
(Doug Pensinger)

Given the personal suffering caused by traffic accidents -- 1.2 million deaths a year worldwide -- there’s far too little attention paid by health researchers, scientists argued Tuesday.

In 2030, such accidents are projected to become the fifth-leading cause of death, and already 20 million people are left disabled by accidents every year, the researchers from the University of Toronto wrote in an essay in the online journal PLOS Medicine.

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“The paradoxical mismatch between relative importance and relative inattention has led to repeated calls for changes to promote more public health protection,” Donald Redelmeier and Barry McLellan wrote.

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Because most trips in a car don’t lead to accidents, and because people have been lulled by TV and film heros surviving breath-taking crashes, the public has a false sense of safety, the said. The public, by contrast, believes that heart disease risks will eventually be personally important, they wrote.

Even survivors of crashes, they said, “often persist with faulty believes despite their objective personal evidence of traffic dangers.” That contrasts with survivors of breast cancer, who often become outspoken advocates for research or treatment.

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They noted that even the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash “generated global attention yet did not galvanize changes in motor vehicle safety.”

The authors recommend that the World Health Organization and other agencies emphasize traffic accidents as a public health epidemic; that behavior science insights be used to help teach people how to avoid accidents; and that the relatively small philanthropic commitments to reduce traffic accident trauma from large industries be studied.

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Mary.MacVean@latimes.com

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@mmacvean on Twitter


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