Follow safety rules to prevent deadly injuries, disability

Monday, December 04, 2017

Compiled by Debra Scherban. Please send items to dscherban@gazettenet.com.

Follow safety rules to prevent deadly injuries, disability

A closer eye on safety measures would go a long way in preventing many injuries commonly seen in emergency departments, notes Dr. Gerald Beltran, chief of pre-hospital disaster medicine in the emergency department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

“Recently, we’ve seen quite a few patients who chose not to use helmets or seatbelts and who either died or were permanently disabled,” he said.

According to figures supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, the percentage of drivers and front seat passengers wearing seat belts is 86 percent nationwide and 73 percent in Massachusetts. The law requires it in all states except New Hampshire. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws which require children to travel in approved child restraints or booster seats. Older children must use adult safety belts.

Several years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement recommending that children ride in rear-facing child safety seats until at least age 2.

Research indicates that bicycle helmet laws are effective for increasing helmet use and reducing head and traumatic brain injuries and deaths among children and adults.

“I remember treating a bicyclist for minor bumps and bruises, who got into an accident with another bicyclist. He showed me his fractured helmet and burst into tears because the accident reminded him of a close family member who had died after getting into a bicycle accident but was not wearing a helmet,” Beltran said.

In Massachusetts, according to law, anyone 16 and under must wear a helmet when riding a bike, traveling on one as a passenger, or using in line skates. But, it is recommended that all cyclists and passengers wear helmets regardless of age.

It’s also important to follow the rules of the road such as going with the traffic flow, obeying all traffic laws and yielding to traffic.

Also, according to the CDC, the single most effective way for states to save lives is a universal motorcycle helmet law. In Massachusetts, all riders must wear motorcycle helmets. The law also extends to all low-power cycles including motor-driven cycles, mopeds, scooters, and various other two-wheel cycles.

Motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,772 lives in 2015 in the U.S., according to figures from the CDC, and helmets reduced the risk of death by 37 percent and 69 percent for head injury.

“Some of the most devastating accidents we see are from ATVs, which often result in trapping riders underneath or throwing riders during a rollover, causing serious or fatal injuries,” Beltran said. “I once saw a child who had been thrown from his ATV and during the rollover was thrown onto a stick which impaled him in the abdomen. He nearly died.”

There are now tougher laws in effect in Massachusetts to protect children from the dangers of operating an ATV — no child younger than 10 can ride one, children younger than 17 are banned from vehicles designed for adults, and the rules apply to public and private property. Also, according to Massachusetts OHV (Off-Highway Vehicles) Laws and Regulations, all recreational vehicle operators and those being towed are required to wear helmets.

Baystate Medical Center’s Emergency Department is the busiest in Massachusetts. The hospital is the only Level 1 Adult and Level 2 Pediatric Trauma Center in Western Massachusetts.

Dr. Ronald Gross, chief, Division of Trauma, Acute Care Surgery & Surgical Critical Care at Baystate, noted that the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma mandates that all trauma centers like Baystate Medical Center engage in broad-based prevention activities.

“One could say our goal is to put trauma surgeons out of business, but we can’t do it without the public’s help,” Gross said. “People must understand that safety and injury prevention starts in their hands.”