World Health Day on April 7 focuses on deadly roads

STxInjuryPrevlogo_BODYSan Antonio (April 6, 2004) – Ours is a fast-paced and mobile society. We motor at dizzying speeds to keep our busy schedules and put our nation’s children at risk in the process. We jockey for the best position on our congested highways, where, with so many cars whizzing past us, it seems only a matter of time before we will hear the sickening sound of metal crashing into metal. One miscalculation is all it takes on the racetracks of our lives.

The World Health Organization seeks to heighten awareness of this global issue with the theme road safety for its annual World Health Day on April 7. One of its partners is the South Texas Injury Prevention Research Center (STIPRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The STIPRC conducts a number of community-based programs that seek to make children safer on South Texas roadways, including bilingual programs to encourage proper restraint of young children in automobiles. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of the children ages 4 and younger who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2002 were completely unrestrained.

The STIPRC also conducts drunken driving prevention programs. “We know that in San Antonio 40 percent of traffic fatalities are related to alcohol,” said Michelle Price, director of the injury prevention center. “To address this problem where it starts, we have an underage drinking prevention program funded by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.”

The Texas Department of Transportation also supports STIPRC with a grant to improve community traffic safety. A four-year, $200,000 grant to the University Health System and the Health Science Center from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports STIPRC programs to prevent childhood injuries.

Price is assisting with an upcoming binational conference on border traffic injury prevention. The conference, organized by The University of Texas Pan American, is April 14-16 on South Padre Island. Representatives are expected from all the Mexican states that border the United States. “The conference is in response to World Health Day recognition that road traffic injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for people under the age of 34,” Price said.

Border traffic safety issues converge around the large number of people who frequently drive across the border. “Child safety seats are not required in Mexico but are in Texas,” Price said. “The infrastructure is different. In this country our biggest concerns are driver behaviors like speeding, aggression and drinking, but in other countries the worry is about unsafe road conditions and inadequate signage, things we take for granted.”

An estimated 1.2 million people a year die on the world’s roadways. Several hundred thousand others are seriously hurt. For more information about road safety and World Health Day, go to www.who.int/world-health-day/2004/en/ or www.cdc.gov/ncipc/whd2004/default.htm. The South Texas Injury Prevention and Research Center is at sthrc.uthscsa.edu/stiprc/.

Note to media: Michelle Price will be available for interviews starting Monday, April 5. Interviews in Spanish with a STIPRC staff member also are available.



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