Report: West Virginia 7th in Death Rates for Accidents, Violence
Drug overdoses and motor vehicle crashes helped push West Virginia’s death rate involving accidents and violence to the seventh-highest in the nation, according to a report on injury prevention released Tuesday, May 22, 2011.
The report by the nonprofit groups Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that such overall fatalities in West Virginia occur at a rate of 82 per 100,000 people, compared with the national rate of about 58.
The report cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing West Virginia had the second-highest rate of poisoning deaths at 22 per 100,000 residents from 2007-09, surpassed only by New Mexico’s 27.9 rate.
The national average was 13.3.
Dr. Elizabeth Sharman, head of the West Virginia Poison Center, said the state’s poisoning deaths are predominantly overdoses from prescriptions drugs such as oxycodone and methodone.
“It’s because of the drug abuse gone wrong,“ Sharman said. “They are abusing drugs. They did not mean to die.“
According to the CDC, poisoning is the leading cause of U.S. deaths from injuries, and nearly nine out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.
As part of a crackdown on pill mills and doctor shopping, a new state law will limit the amount of pain drugs that a doctor or clinic can dispense, speed up the tracking of prescriptions through a statewide database and increase oversight of pain management clinics as well as methadone treatment centers. It also tightens the purchase limits of cold remedies that can be used to make methamphetamine.
Among motor vehicle crashes, the report found West Virginia had the nation’s seventh-highest death rate at 19.8, compared with the national average of 12.4.
Starting in July, texting while driving will become a primary offense in West Virginia and talking on a handheld cellphone will be a secondary driving offense. The cellphone ban bumps up to a primary offense in July 2013.
Among residents 19 and under, West Virginia had the 16th highest rate of injury-related fatalities among the states; although CDC figures show the number of deaths in the state fell 43% from 2000 to 2009.
The report also graded states on 10 categories involving seat belts, drunken driving, motorcycle and bicycle helmets, child booster seats, along with domestic and date violence, sports concussions and accidental prescription drug overdoses.
West Virginia was among 24 states to score 5 or lower out of a possible 10 points. California and New York received the highest scores while Montana and Ohio scored the lowest.
The report suggests millions of injuries can be prevented each year if more states adopt and enforce more research-based injury prevention policies.
“This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer,“ said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health.
The report praised West Virginia for allowing people in dating relationships to get protection orders.
But it also cited a study by the anti-date violence group Break The Cycle that suggested West Virginia should allow school response to dating violence; allow minors to petition for civil protection orders and have access without parental involvement to services such as HIV services, prenatal and medical care; and offer victims of intimate partner stalking and harassment access to protection orders.
The report noted West Virginia was among 21 states requiring bicycle helmets for all children, among 33 states requiring car or booster seat use to at least age 8, and among 19 states having a universal motorcycle helmet law. West Virginia also was among 48 states that have an active prescription drug monitoring program.
The report said West Virginia did not require ignition locks for convicted drunken drivers, did not have a strong youth sports concussion law and allows police to cite drivers for seat belt violations only when there is another traffic offense.
A bill that would have required the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to come up with rules about evaluation and treatment of youth sports concussions failed to pass in the Legislature this year. Lawmakers were divided over the issue of legal immunity for certain health care providers.
A bill to make seat-belt violations a primary offense also died. The bill passed the state Senate, cleared the House Roads & Transportation Commission and was in the House Judiciary Committee when the session ended in March.
The report also noted the state did not respond to an inquiry into whether emergency department data systems routinely collect codes that classify types of injuries. Such codes help researchers track trends and develop prevention strategies.