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More in News
Maine has 31st highest injury-death rate in nation
STATE — A new report released by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) shows that Maine has the 31st highest rate of injury-related deaths for Americans, with 58.7 per 100,000 people suffering injury fatalities.
According to the report the national rate is 57.9 per 100,000.
In Maine, the total lifetime medical costs associated with fatal injuries is $7.2 million, according to the State-by-State injury Prevention Policy Report released on May 22 by TFAH and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Injuries are the third leading cause of death nationally and the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and 44.
TFAH concludes, however, that if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, millions of injuries could be prevented each year.
In fact, there are a number of key indicators that have been proven to reduce injuries and save lives, including seatbelt and helmet laws.
According to TFAH, Maine has scored a six out of 10 – or has adopted six out of 10 strategies – that help prevent injuries.
These include: seatbelt and bicycle helmet laws; booster seats that meet AAP standards; an Intimate Violent Partner law; a prescription drug monitoring program; and Ecodes.
According to the TFAH report, Ecodes, also known as external cause of injury codes, were given to more than 90 percent of patients discharged from emergency departments to help researchers track trends and develop prevention strategies.
Maine also has an Intimate Partner Violence law, which allows people in dating relationships to get Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders when the person has been threatened, physically or sexually abused, stalked or harassed.
Maine lacks helmet, concussion law
Though Maine scored high on the report, there are still a number of ways it can work to prevent such a high rate of injury fatalities.
In a 2010 National Survey for Teen Dating Violence laws, which grades how well states protect minors from abusive relationships, Maine received a "B."
This is because Maine law does not provide for a school response to dating violence, according to the survey. Also, it does not allow minors to petition for a PFA on their own behalf.
Based on the report, in order to receive a point for that indicator, an "A" is needed.
In addition, Maine does not have mandatory ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including first offenders. Nor does it have a universal motorcycle helmet law – requiring helmets for all riders – or a strong concussion law.
Local safety programs
In Oxford Hills, different programs are being implemented to prevent injury, said Paris Police Chief David Verrier.
He said the Paris Police Department, along with other area officers participate in the annual "May Day, Play Day," which focuses specifically on bicycle safety for children.
The event takes place every year at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. It is sponsored by the Norway-Paris Kiwanis Club and the Oxford Hills Rotary Club.
"Every year we are involved," said Verrier. "We have an officer go over to do the Bike Rodeo. We talk about bicycle safety and the rotarians give kids [properly-fitted] helmets."
This year's rodeo included a variety of stations where children learned and practiced proper hand signals and bike safety skills, as local law enforcement led the children through various obstacle courses.
According to AAA, approximately 200 children under the age of 15 die as a result of bicycle crashes, and thousands more are treated for bicycle-related injuries.
Staff from Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway were also at the event to provide free hands-on car seat inspections to make sure they were installed properly.
Verrier said that local enforcement also conducts highway safety courses every year at OHCHS, where young drivers are able to use a driving simulator and experience how to react to real-life driving situations.
Also every year, Paris Police Department is awarded a seatbelt grant and an OUI (Operating Under the Influence) enforcement grant, said Verrier, "which pays overtime to officers to concentrate on high-traffic areas, like areas we get speeding complaints on," he said. "And, at the same time, we make sure motorists are using seatbelts."
Verrier said that OUI details will begin July 1 and run to the middle of September to catch people operating under the influence of alcohol.
He said that there have been numerous times over the course of his career where a driver's life could have been saved had they worn their seatbelt.
Statistics show that preventing injuries is possible – and it's as simple as following the law.
Seatbelts, for instance, saved an estimated 69,000 lives between 2006 and 2010, according to TFAH. Between 2005 and 2009, motorcycle helmets saved 8,000 lives, and, thanks to child safety seats, another 1,800 lives were saved.
Sheriff Wayne Gallant of Oxford County said that, just a week ago, the sheriffs department checked vehicles from Québec, Canada all the way down through Maine and New Hampshire, for drivers not wearing seatbelts, texting and driving or driving under the influence of alcohol.
"We weren't doing it to pass out summonses that day, we were doing it for an education," said Gallant. "We checked over 800 cars ... gave out about 45 warnings, a few summsonses and one arrest."
"We were just out trying to educate the public and keep it safe," he said, "and to mark off our holidays and summer season on a safe note."
Gallant said that the Sheriff's department is constantly trying to educate people about wearing their seatbelts. He said, like Verrier, for most car accidents he's been to, he learned if the driver hadn't worn their seatbelt, the consequences could have been much worse.
For example, Gallant said that an accident involving a car and tractor-trailer unit in West Paris on Friday could have been deadly had the drivers of both vehicles failed to wear their seatbelts.
"Those people walked away with no injuries," he said. "In fact, part of it was seatbelts and airbag deployment. Had that been a crash where somebody hadn't been securely in their seat, by the looks of the vehicle and the damage, the occupants would have went through one of the windows, for sure."
Nationally, 24 states scored a five or lower on the report. California and New York received the highest score of 9 out of 10. Montana and Ohio scored lowest with 2 out of 10.