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The door zone: looking out for cyclist’s safety

17 Sep, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

lookforbikers

Bicycling related injuries are a complex problem. Take for example injuries related to “dooring” – in which a car driver or passenger opens a car door into the path of a cyclist, causing the cyclist to hit the door or veer into the path of oncoming traffic – which are becoming all-the-more common in our cities. Real video examples of this risk can be seen here and here.

Multiple factors contribute for the occurrence of “dooring” events, including those related to the behavior of road users, the infrastructure, traffic regulations, policies, and even recommendations based on bicycling safety research.

It has been suggested that the lack of awareness among car users can be in part explained by the limited efforts of city administrators to change the attitudes and social norms via increased penalties for “dooring” bikers and stronger campaigns promoting looking for bikers on the road.

In Injury Prevention Global News Highlights from 2014, Barry Pless wrote:

“A column in the New York Times, “Is it OK to kill cyclists?”, was prompted by the observation that “motorists in America generally receive no punishment for crashing into or killing cyclists, even when the ‘accident’ is transparently their fault.” In the Netherlands, the opposite is true: “if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist, … it is always assumed to have been the driver’s fault… ” because “the law treats pedestrians and cyclists as weaker participants in traffic…” The result is far fewer injuries to cyclists: 12 per billion km cycled in the Netherlands versus 58–109 in the USA.

Editor’s comment: Bicyclists need better protection. I am tired of complaints about how some cyclists behave. Their foolish behaviour mostly leads to harming themselves. In contrast, the far more dangerous car and truck drivers tend to be tolerated. Until there is equal condemnation for driver infractions, I suggest we cut bicyclists some slack. An example: recently, coroners reports were issued following three bicyclist deaths in Montreal. In the last year, 92 bicyclists were doored; 58 were taken to hospital and 2 died. The fine for dooring is US$30! Alongside a public awareness campaign reminding drivers that dooring is illegal, one coroner recommended charges of criminal negligence and a substantial increase in fines. “Motorists (must) accept that cyclists … are not obligated to restrict themselves to bike lanes.” It is time now for the balance in North America to swing in the direction of the Netherlands.” [emphasis ours] 

Another contributing factor to “dooring” is unsafe infrastructure. For example, even if bike lanes might be associated with overall risk reduction on average, they become a problem when built near to car parking spots, as open car doors usually block most of bike lane areas giving bikers no options to avoid crashes.

A 2014 commentary in Injury PreventionUnsuitability of the epidemiological approach to bicycle transportation injuries and traffic engineering problems, argued that problems such as the ‘door zone’ are also unwittingly created through the application of unsuitable methodologies in an attempt to solve complex problems:

“bicycle lanes have through systematic review received epidemiological approval. In cities around the world, these lanes, whether curbside of parked cars (therefore being cycle tracks) or roadside (ordinary bicycle lanes), typically run in the door zones. They are thus an obvious hazard. What is the common remedy offered, by epidemiologists and governments? Hypervigilance and luck, to be provoked by reducing turnover or putting the conflict on the passenger and curb side, large fines, stickers reminding drivers to watch out, advice to open the door with the opposite hand or for riders to look through vehicle windows for occupants’ heads, or even for occupants to open vehicle doors inch by inch”

It is true that bicycling safety is a complex problem. Indeed, complexity, by nature, increases the unpredictability of effects.  Likely, solutions to the “dooring” problem and others alike, would require embracing this complexity in scientific research and policy development, and also the work of of multidisciplinary teams, including engineers, road users, epidemiologists, sociologists, etc., that can study and rethink bicycling safety from different angles.

Two examples of strategies that are working to address this complexity are Vision Zero and Fatality Free Friday. Both bring together a diverse range of stakeholders – such as local traffic planners and engineers, police officers, policymakers, and public health professionals – to work towards safer mobility.

In the words of Leah Shahum, director of Vision Zero:

traditionally, traffic planners and engineers, police officers, policymakers, and public health professionals have not collaborated in meaningful, cross-disciplinary ways to meet shared goals (partly because they literally did not have shared goals for safe streets).  Vision Zero acknowledges that there are many factors that contribute to safe mobility infrastructure, enforcement, individual behavior/education, and policies — and all must be coordinated with a safety-first approach.”

Injury prevention, at its core, remains a complex endeavour and one in which the strengths of multidisciplinary teams and different fields of research must be harnessed for full effectiveness. 

~ Julian Santaella and Sheree Bekker

Dying en route to safety – the mortality rates of refugees to Europe

15 Sep, 15 | by Klara Johansson

Refugees are often barred from conventional modes of transport, and thus reduced to using unsafe means of travel. But people who are running away from horrible risks are willing to take quite extreme risks. Or as stated by the somalian-british poet Warsan Shire “you have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” (from her poem Home, you can read it in fulltext here or hear the author read it herself here).

We’ve seen this over the last few years, when ever-increasing numbers of desperate people attempt to reach Europe, pushed by a number of converging factors (war in Syria, conflicts in Afghanistan and Nigeria, repressive regime in Eritrea – and overfull refugee camps, and instability in Libya, which has previously harboured many refugees). Europe is by no means the most common destination for refugees – millions are displaced within their own countries or harboured in neighbouring countries, often under very difficult conditions – but Europe is the most dangerous destination for clandestine migrants globally, according to the International Organization for Migration.

I’ve been looking for some comprehensive overview of mortality of the refugees entering Europe. There is a lot of data available online, but I couldn’t find any summary of mortality in relation to how many refugees are arriving. So I downloaded some of the available data and made some calculations and graphs, for my own understanding, and now sharing it with you. As always, please let me know if you find some factual errors or missing information (but complete zero-tolerance for haters and demagogues!)

The graph below shows the numbers of arriving migrants side to side with number of deaths (=dead and missing-at-sea), by year and split by which route they arrived. (See extra information about the data at the bottom of this post.) Deaths so far in 2015 are a little over 3,000, of which about 2,800 died on the Mediterranean and about 200 died on European ground. The IOM states that 95% of deaths on the Mediterranean occur along the Central Mediterranean route (going from North Africa to Italy), which we also see here (the red fields). Though the numbers of migrants are the highest in 2015, deaths are lower than in 2011, which is also a conclusion of the latest newsletter of the Migrant Files. This should mean that the overall mortality rate (per number of migrants) is going down. In the left graph, we also see that the safer, Eastern route has increased it’s share in 2015 (as far as I understand, partly from geopolitical reasons). So, have the mortality rates declined per route, or has the overall rate declined because the routes have shifted?

migrants and deaths, low qual smaller

I then computed mortality rates (graph below) based on the two different sources presented above. Combining different sources in this way is of course a risky business, in case they are based on different definitions or such. Or error sources could differ across time for the two sources. For instance, it’s possible that more migrants passed undetected in the earlier years, when Frontex had less resources – but of course, for the same reasons, more deaths could also have been undetected.

Bearing in mind that there are several possible sources of error for the graph below, I still think the graph shows a relevant story. Mortality is indeed down hugely compared to 2011, for all routes and especially for the Central Mediterranean route. Mortality on the Western Mediterranean route (from Morocco to Spain) has kept decreasing. But from 2012 onwards, mortality rates for the most dangerous route, the Central Mediterranean seem to remain roughly the same, despite the large rescue operations. This graph only goes up to July 2015, and the Migrant Files state that mortality rate during June-August has been the lowest since start of data collection, so it’s possible that the graph will change when all of 2015 is included.

The available data is a bit fuzzy still regarding the causes of death (many cases are unclear, so it’s hard to make an overview). For the deaths on the Mediterranean, drowning is one major cause of death of course, while others have suffocated below board or died from dehydration or exhaustion; also some deaths due to fall injuries after being pushed (accidentally or intentionally) and at least two cases of death during childbirth. For the deaths on land during 2015, suffocation seems to dominate (largely inside trucks during transport), followed by traffic related causes – including people hiding under trucks or similar to cross borders, and being crushed after losing their grip –  and exhaustion/dehydration and similar. For previous years, violence and suicide also play a significant role.

Data collection and research on vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations is extremely difficult. The data on deaths I used here have been painstakingly compiled from multiple sources by a group of obviously hardworking journalists; and the data on arrivals are based only on those who are registered. (See more details on data at the bottom of the post.) Both deaths and number of migrants are likely to be underestimated – and the incidence rate of non-fatal injuries remains unknown, along with other information that is vital both for humanitarian efforts and decision-making at the top political level. Maybe some organization could reach out to the refugees and crowdsource information about health, injuries and needs from those who know it best, using for instance a tool like Ushahidi? Refugees and aid workers along the routes have phones, all that would be needed is a central initiative to coordinate and validate the data. And the refugees crossing the mediterranean could maybe be tracked using cell phone data, like one research study did in Haiti, and which is now done at the Flowminder foundation.

For added understanding of the circumstances, turn to professor Hans Rosling:

…and for added understanding of the human side, I share a video from #helpiscoming. But you should have some tissue paper close at hand if you watch it.

 

About the sources:

Number of deaths are available from at least two sources, the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for Migration, and the Migrant Files (the latter is a project from a European consortium of journalists). The method of data compilation seems quite similar between the two sources (combining reports from rescuers, rescued, and media). In many cases of boats rescued at mid-sea, they only know the number of missing, and have no actual dead bodies, which mean that the numbers presented here represent “dead and missing”. The IOM numbers are marginally more conservative, but the difference is small. Since the IOM only has data for 2014 and 2015, I chose to use the data from the Migrant Files. The data is available as a spreadsheet from their site; I downloaded it, cleaned up the categorizations of routes, and summed it up by year, so you won’t find these exact numbers on their site.

I picked the data on arrivals from Frontex, the EU border authority. If you follow the link, data from 2015 are available in the map, and data and metadata for previous years are available per route if you click the arrows in the map. The arrivals along the Western Balkan route is a combination of people who already arrived via the Eastern Mediterranean route, and people arriving across land. So some of those who first came across the Eastern Mediterranean might be registered twice.

Back to basics: On social media and injury prevention

7 Sep, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

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I recently attended the inaugral Mayo Clinic Social Media and Healthcare Summit, held in Brisbane, Australia. Billed to excite, educate and demonstrate the power of social media to healthcare providers – no matter where they work or what they do – this promised to be an innovative few days. I have already blogged about this Summit in my capacity as social media coordinator for the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) on my personal blog, which you can read here: #MayoInOz: Curate. Credible. Conversation.

Whilst social media can be perceived as seemingly-frivolous and as an add-on to the work that we do as researchers, I have chosen to do a separate blog post here – as I think that there was an aspect that would be of particular interest to the injury prevention community: that of our responsibility to share vital, potentially injury-preventing or life-saving information via social media. I have blogged on this platform in a light-hearted manner a few times now, and whilst my blog posts are always underpinned by rigorous research from this very journal, it is sometimes easy to forget the very real impact and real-life difference that a seemingly frivolous blog post or status update on social media can make.

This week marks world suicide prevention week. We will see important campaigns staged around the globe to open up this conversation. For example, in Australia, a simple campaign, R U OKAY Day, urges people to reach out to their friends, family, acquaintances, and wider networks to simply ask: ‘Are you okay?’. I have been personally touched by the genuine and heartfelt ways in which friends of mine reach out and ask ‘R U Okay?’ on their social media platforms. Of course, we know that it may not be within our capacity to help, but it is a way to reach out and hold space for others who may be struggling, and in turn to then provide them with the resources or support structures that they may need.

Perhaps this will not be news to most of you reading this, but I learned at the Summit that Google has a similarly simple way of reaching out: if you type the word ‘suicide’ into Google, your first result will be a helpful resource based on your IP address. In other words, you get relevant, credible information irrespective of who or where you are. Yes – suicide prevention is incredibly complex, and a simple initiative such as this one by no means provides all the answers – nevertheless, it remains important.

suicide

 

One of the more innovative forms of simple social media messaging shared at the Summit was the Twitter-Storm: a 10-minute en masse blast of credible information to counteract a trend of dubious information on a current topic. This was done with much success for #MeaslesTruth (read more: Did #MeaslesTruth Create a New Form of Twitter Communication?). 

A further important initiative shared at the Summit is the Healthcare Hashtag Project – in which experts are working to standardize hashtags used for common healthcare issues. It is fascinating, and an excellent way in which to curate credible information under a conversation linked to a hashtag on Twitter.

Could we harness simple initiatives such as these for injury prevention messages?

Social media, and the internet as a whole, can be a wonderful resource. It is our job as injury prevention advocates to use it to amplify our voices to spread our message. To not engage becomes ethically problematic, especially if you have the information and resources at your fingertips. As researchers, it is important to remember that we do not always need to disseminate purely our most up-to-date research results, or even the most innovative interventions; sometimes our work life’s work is bigger than that. Sometimes we need to advocate for the very heart that lies at our work: simple, credible information and resources that can make a difference in even one person’s life.

Food for thought.

Dissemination and implementation of best practice in falls prevention across Europe

28 Aug, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

As injury prevention researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers, we are all aware that falls are an important public health issue. Today I wanted to profile a novel approach to preventing falls. Dr Helen Hawley-Hague of the University of Manchester is the Scientific Coordinator of ProFouND, the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination, and she has shared with me some information regarding this innovative injury prevention approach.

ProFouND is a European Commission-funded initiative dedicated to bring about the dissemination and implementation of best practice in falls prevention across Europe. ProFouND comprises 21 partners from 12 countries, with a further 10 associate members. ProFouND aims to

  • influence policy to increase awareness of falls and innovative prevention programmes among health and social care authorities, the commercial sector, NGOs and the general public,
  • ultimately increasing the delivery of evidence-based practice in falls prevention and
  • therefore reducing the numbers of falls and injurious falls experienced by older adults across Europe.

ProFouND contributes to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA), with the ultimate objective of adding an average of two active healthy life years to the lives of European citizens by 2020. ProFouND’s objective is to embed evidence-based fall prevention programmes for elderly people at risk of falls using novel ICT solutions in at least 10 countries/15 EU regions by the end of 2015, thus to reduce falls incidence in those regions by 2020. The following resources are available to support falls injury prevention:

  1. ProFouND Falls Prevention App (PFNApp), accessible for registered health care practitioners and available in multiple languages;
  2. Cascade training using face-to-face and e-learning approaches and available in multiple languages; and
  3. A free resources library, in addition to information regarding upcoming conferences, and other recent research.

Having seen the ramifications of falls in my own family, with my elderly grandmother fracturing both her pelvis and vertebrae in one fall, this program definitely seems like a step in the right direction!

 

 

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”

21 Aug, 15 | by Angy El-Khatib

Last week, I wrote a short blog highlighting a publication in this month’s issue of Injury Prevention which stressed the need to gather “better” data as a step towards improving future bicycle safety endeavors.

This week, I am absolutely delighted to introduce a guest blog by someone who is equally passionate and enthusiastic about data as he is about bicycle safety – my mentor and inspiration, Dr. Christiaan Abildso (follow him on Twitter at @walkbikemgw)! He is an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at WVU School of Public Health. His main areas of research include health promotion program evaluation and the social ecological determinants of physical activity, including policy and the built environment. Recently, he presented “The Burden of Pedestrian- and Cyclist-Motor Vehicle Crashes (PCMCVs) and Costs in West Virginia: 2000-06” as a part of the 2014 WVU Injury Control Research Center’s webinar series (you can watch it here).

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic dress.

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 WVU MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic garb.

Christiaan has two very notorious and very utlized catchphrases; the first is “I love data!” and the second is “Change the world!” which he very well does by engaging in the community. He served as the Chairperson for the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board from 2008 to 2014, has been an Ex-officio Member of the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board since 2012, and is a current member of both the West Virginia Connecting Communities and the Morgantown Traffic Commission.

Since this month’s blogging topic was to be focused on bike safety, I asked Christiaan to write a guest blog about his own experience as he transitioned from a novice cyclist to a trained traffic rider.


 

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”
By guest blogger: Christiaan Abildso

My first taste of freedom was experienced on a teal-green Peugeot in the mid-1980s in suburban Washington DC. With each passing summer and my super cool 5-speed, I was given more and more leeway by my parents to “ride to John’s house,” then to Tom’s house, then to the community pool and parks. As a young lad in pre-helmet days I had a great time riding on and off sidewalks, and on wide streets mostly of 25 mph speed limit. It was suburban America in a Levitt town in the summer. I was safe.

As I grew up I rode less or not at all until I got back into bicycle commuting about 6 years ago when I became a father, gas prices were high, and I didn’t have time to go to a gym. I began to experience that freedom yet again. However, I was now riding in a more urban environment with more traffic, narrower lanes, no bike lanes or separate infrastructure, and less kindness toward me as a cyclist – let’s face it, kids on bikes get more leeway to mess up than mid-thirties cyclists! One day, I moved from the end of 5 cars at a red light in the left lane in a three lane, one-way downtown road to the middle lane to be at the front of the traffic. I did this to jump the traffic and move back over in front of the left lane traffic to make a turn. As I jumped back to the left lane, a kind gentleman driving by leaned his Livestrong band covered left wrist and wagged a finger at me, saying “you should know better. You’re gonna get killed.”

This statement made me think, what did I do wrong? That moment began my evolution from thinking like a “bike rider” to thinking like a “bike driver.” I began seeking the opinion of Frank Gmeindl – a League of American Bicyclists certified League Cycling Instructor (LCI) in Morgantown, WV, and uber-experienced rider with tens of thousands of miles of experience. He offered to ride behind me one day giving only these instructions (as I recall them): 1) ride like a vehicle, 2) be predictable, 3) be seen, and 4) take the lane. Following the ride – during which, in retrospect, I did a bunch of things that put me in harm’s way (like riding as far to the edge of the road as possible) – Frank patiently offered these same four suggestions, then took the lead. His few suggestions have, without a doubt, saved my life.

unnamed

Christiaan playing the “hipster” and picking up his Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) on his bike.

I continued to seek out information, eventually taking the Safer City Cycling class offered by Frank and another local LCI. I have ridden thousands of miles over the past few years with the advice of Frank and others in my head. I now am confident enough in my abilities to ride in almost any condition on nearly any road without fear. Over the years I have evolved to be very calm in traffic and now help others when I see them riding in a way that puts them (or me as “one of those pesky bikers”) at risk of injury. I honed in on one statement I heard or read a few years back that summarizes how to operate a bicycle: “Drive your bike, don’t just ride it.” That neatly summarizes Frank’s four key lessons, and I often use that with others when they say I’m crazy for riding all the time and on almost any road. I also make an offer to them, as Frank did, to go for a ride to help.

To my fellow cyclists, when in traffic. Remember, we are traffic. We are adults. Vehicle drivers don’t want to hit us.

My advice when in traffic: Be seen. Be predictable. Take the lane. Drive your bike like you would a car…and, give a hand of thanks when a vehicle driver treats you well. It will make driving a bike safer for all of us.

 

 

Follow Dr. Christiaan Abildso at @walkbikemgw!

Children in virtual traffic testing situations – can we approximate real traffic situations?

20 Aug, 15 | by Klara Johansson

Young children are developmentally very bad at traffic safety. This was early demonstrated by Swedish researcher Stina Sandels in the 1960’s. In her groundbreaking studies where she studied children’s behaviour in traffic situations, she came to the conclusion that children under the age of 12 are developmentally unable to handle traffic in a safe way. She stated that ‘even the best road safety education cannot adapt a child to modern traffic, so that traffic has got to be adapted to the child.’

Since then, research has repeatedly shown this to be true. For instance, children before the age of eleven are usually not able to think from another perspective, and thus often fail to understand that a curve, hill or parked car may obstruct their view.

But in order to adapt traffic to children, we still need to study the choices children make in various traffic situations. And nowadays, when we’re aware of the high injury risk, we need to do such studies “in vitro”, in perfectly safe conditions.

How can we do that?

Well, nowadays there are technical options never before seen. An article in our current issue of Injury Prevention is using and further developing virtual reality to study if children crossing a street adjust their walking speed to avoid oncoming traffic. The technology is obviously still at an early stage, but Morrongiello, Corbett, Milanovic, Pyne & Vierich is building on previous research but with the improvement that they use a system that allows children to physically walk across a street in a virtual environment (while actually walking in an empty room, supervised by researchers).

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The study shows that children’s average walking speed is a bad proxy for how fast they walk under the threat of oncoming traffic. This finding emphasizes the importance of using a VR testing environment where children can actually move around themselves instead of controlling an avatar that corresponds to their average normal walking speed, which has been used in previous studies.

Incidentally, I just read a long feature in Time about how far virtual reality has developed. The full article is unfortunately only available to subscribers, but there is a brief version here. To give a very short summary: virtual reality tec has come further than we think, but many headsets and graphics on the market are still fairly clunky (but new tec is set to reach the market within 18 months). The article also points out that VR can be useful for a wide range of purposes, including conference meetings, treatment of phobias, empathy training, and research. They don’t mention traffic safety research, but that just goes to show that each of us nerds in the world have our own specific interest to bring to the table.

One major differentiating feature of VR systems seems to be whether one would explore the virtual worlds by walking around or sitting on the couch. Well, for traffic safety research, the article by Morrongiello et al shows the value of one that lets the subject walk around.

Or cycle around – that seems easier to accomplish, using a training bike that responds to the virtual environment. For adults, studies using car driving simulators has been available for more than 20 years, but of course, that doesn’t require a VR headset.

The next technological step that VR geeks dream of is apparently “enhanced reality” – a headset that superimposes virtual holograms onto your real field of vision. From what I understand, this is more difficult technologically, but if accomplished, I imagine it could be a gold mine for safety research and training.

 

Home safety and the prevention of falls

17 Aug, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Safety Centre has created a new online resource to tackle the number one cause of injury to children in Victoria, Australia – falls.

Targeting parents of children aged from birth to 14 years old, the site details simple steps parents and caregivers can take to prevent common injuries by age group, such as

* changing a baby’s nappy on the floor rather than on an elevated change table, and

* wearing protective gear, including mouth guards, when playing contact sports.

RCH Trauma Service Manager Helen Jowett says the frequency of under 14-year-olds requiring a hospital admission following a fall has increased by 29 per cent since 1998, at an annual cost of $18.6 million.

Most of those injuries occur in the home and behind those statistics are children like Ella, who had a tough lesson in gravity when she fell from a tree she was climbing in her back garden. The eight-year-old, from country Victoria, landed head-first when she fell, and was rushed to her local hospital where she was assessed as having a significant head injury.

Ella was promptly sent to The Royal Children’s Hospital by air ambulance for emergency surgery. After discharge, she spent several weeks resting and was unable to play contact sport for three months.

The new website shows that, unlike Ella’s hospital stay, safety around the home doesn’t need to be expensive, emotionally draining, complicated, or time-consuming.

Importantly for injury prevention around the world, the website is an easy-to-access repository for information regarding, and links to, useful tips and advice that can be applied in any home anywhere, anytime. For example, falls-prevention safety pertaining to furniture, and to bunk beds specifically, may have helped prevent my nephew from breaking his arm as a young boy.

Step 1 of improving bicycle safety: gather data better!

14 Aug, 15 | by Angy El-Khatib

The month of August is the unofficial, “Blog about Road/Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety!” month here at IP BMJ Blog. Part of that is due to the August 2015 issue of Injury Prevention, which features several publications regarding the aforementioned topics.

One of them being this paper by Lusk, Asgarazdeh, and Farvid, looking at how bicycle-crash-scene data is being reported and how to improve our databases for the greater purpose of improving the safety of roadways and vehicles.

Lusk, Asgarazdeh, and Farvid report that, although police in the United States have been reporting bicycle crashes since bicycle use became popular in the 1890s, the reporting templates and coding practices have room for improvement. For example, the current police templates only have diagrams of two cars – no bikes. Lusk and her colleagues want police reporting mechanisms to include pictures of a bike. Another example, there are only two ways to code a bicycle crash – (1) “pedal cyclist” vs. motor cyclist and (2) whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not. Lusk and her colleagues purport that a template and reporting mechanism which includes the side of the bicycle that was impacted, whether the crash was caused by an open car door, or whether a cyclist was riding in the bike lane could help to improve future plans for the built environment (i.e., less parallel parked cards) and car designs (i.e., sliding car doors) will have a profound effect on how we view future bicycle/road safety endeavors.

Who would’ve ever thought that improving the way we report bicycle crashes could potentially help make bicycling safer and more prevalent?(Shhh… that’s a rhetorical question.)

Snow safety in Australia: Perceptions from a well-travelled snow sport injury researcher

12 Aug, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

tailgrab whistler

This week I have the pleasure of sharing the views of one of my colleagues here at the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (follow us on Twitter @ACRISPFedUni). Matthew Shumack (follow him on Twitter @snowboardPhD) is researching snow sports injury prevention (cue: research envy).

A cursory keyword search in Injury Prevention shows that snow sports injury prevention research in this journal is largely focused on head injuries and attitudes towards helmet use. Matt paints a picture below of a different, yet common-sense and just as important, consideration for snow sports safety.

I (MS) have spent the majority of my adult life chasing winter, the search for fresh snow and deep pow will continue. I am not the only one that chases the snow, Dickson even conducted a study to find out how many Australians travel for skiing and snowboarding. However, when you arrive in places like the U.S.A, Canada, or Japan the question is always asked…

“You get snow in Australia?”

Well we do, we get a lot of it. This year alone we have seen multiple evacuations from different places in Tasmania of people being snowed in. Snowboarders trapped in their car, and even a group of 10 people who needed to be airlifted out of a national park. Considering that winter is nowhere near over, awareness of the possibility of injury and even death needs to be articulated, not only our community, but to the international community as well. Last year (2014) we saw some tragic events occur over our winter, whether it was avalanche deaths, or injury and death occurring in organised ski areas.

These are not the first, and will not be the last, but the numbers may be limited with better injury prevention awareness campaigns. There is never going to be a seatbelt for skiing and snowboarding, but ensuring adequate health promotion of the risks of injury and death are needed on a wider scale.

As an interesting parallel to this, I (SB), have some Canadian friends living here in Australia (shout out to Wagga Wagga) who have told me that they never felt the cold as much in Canada as they do here. In fact, they would agree that Australian houses are just glorified tents in winter (read the interesting research linked in the article which shows that the poor quality of housing is behind many preventable deaths from exposure to cold in Australia). 

 

Treating firearm violence like a contagious disease

12 Aug, 15 | by jsantaella

 

Following up on a previous post by aelkhatib.

When I first heard about the 1996 amendment prohibiting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on firearm violence prevention I was very surprised. I could not believe that there was a legal mechanism that would prevent researchers from studying the causes of something impacting so heavily the health of populations. The amendment, authored by former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey, stated “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control”; the language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence, but along with the cuts to CDC’s budget, there was a clear message against researchers trying to study this topic. Later, in the next decades, funding for firearm injury prevention dropped by 96%, while the annual rate of 10 firearm related deaths per 100,000, was relatively immutable.

Amazingly, even after the occurrence of recent absurd events in which citizens have lost their lives at the hands of armed individuals, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment that would have allowed the CDC to conduct research on the causes of firearm violence. The message: CDC should not be studying this topic! As put by one House Speaker “I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people – people do.”

However, even if a gun is not a disease, can’t the firearm violence problem be tackled using an evidence-based approach? This strategy has been used in the past to confront non-infectious problems such as the incidence of fatal motor-vehicle crashes or the harms associated with second hand smoking. What if we could treat, not guns, but firearm violence like a contagious disease? This angle, endorsed by many, and clearly presented by physician Gary Slutkin in his TED talk, has lead to important reductions in firearm homicides in many neighborhoods across the US, as he describes. Interestingly, the call for more research on this topic has also been adopted by former representative Jay Dickey as shown in a 2012 co-authored Washington Post op-ed with Mark Rosenberg: “…we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”

Yes, more research is needed! Time and resources must be used to rigorously study the causes of firearm violence in order to come with appropriate solutions; otherwise, answers to confront this problem might just serve as innocuous palliatives.

 

 

 

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