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NZ injury and death toll no cause for celebration

25 August, 2004

New Zealand's injury and death toll no cause for celebration

More than 1070 people killed and 103,000 moderately-to-seriously hurt in accidents in the last year is one achievement New Zealanders have little reason to celebrate.

Instead ACC is asking New Zealanders to pause to reflect on these sobering statistics which are contained in its annual National Safety Audit out today.

These were people like an elderly woman who slipped and fell and broke her hip. She has a 50 percent chance of never regaining her pre-fall level of function. She also stands a good chance of dying from complications from her injury. New Zealanders from all walks of life found their lives suddenly changed by injury – on the sports field, in the home and the workplace.

These were people like the young drink-driver who came over the rise on the wrong side of a country road. While he died, the broken limbs of the mother in the oncoming car will repair, but she will never get over the grief of a child passenger who may have died or been seriously injured.

Despite the toll, which was up 2 percent on last year, there were encouraging signs in this year's Safety Audit, said ACC Chief Executive Garry Wilson. "There's nothing medal winning about our injury toll but at least the trend is now closer to population growth and a marked drop from 6 percent a year earlier and 13 percent the year before that," he said.

Some sectors had performed exceptionally well.

"We've all heard that unemployment is at a 17-year low and that more people are in the workforce. In these circumstances, we could have expected workplace injuries to be higher, but they weren't. In fact they were down a little," Mr Wilson said.

"ACC has targeted high-risk industries through our Safer Industries programme and the work we are doing with employers, unions and staff representatives may be starting to pay off," he said.

"More than 10,000 farmers, for instance, have attended an ACC-supported FarmSafe course."

This year's Safety Audit has a stronger regional focus, with injury statistics from the areas covered by each of New Zealand's regional councils.

Auckland and Wellington had noticeably lower injury rates compared with the rest of the country, whether it was for work, home, road or sport.

These lower rates may in part reflect that Aucklanders and Wellingtonians leave town for holidays and recreation and also travel on business.

(Eds: Drop in regional figures to suit by following links within release at cause-for-celebration-25aug/) In Northland, ACC has run child car restraint checking clinics, a Down With Speed campaign, water safety promotion and falls campaigns targeting children and older adults.

A new rural drink-drive campaign in conjunction with Police is underway now. In one weekend Police stopped 2100 drivers -- 37 tested positive and were prosecuted.

In the case of child restraint clinics, improvements in seat installation were recommended in half the cases.

Nevertheless, Northland remains significantly above the national average in home and work injuries.

Last year, there were 4241 moderate or serious injuries and 65 claims for deaths accepted by ACC from Northland.

Workplace accidents accounted for 1469 injuries and four deaths; 1271 people were injured and 11 killed at home or in the community; 608 were hurt and seven killed while involved in sports or recreation, and 214 were injured and 31 killed in road crashes.

A further 679 injuries and 12 fatalities were classified as “other” because the accident scene did not fit within the four main categories or because of a lack of information.

Mr Wilson said ACC had focused on reducing injuries through 23 ThinkSafe Communities established three years ago.

"The idea behind ThinkSafe is that an accident is not really an accident, because an accident has a cause and that cause can usually be anticipated," he said.

To bring the ThinkSafe message home, ACC has injury prevention consultants working in the communities, talking to people and establishing safety messages.

"As one person takes up the message, it gets passed from friend to friend, family to family. It's not with a bang of sudden enlightenment but slowly and gradually," he said.


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