Are Some People Actually “Accident-Prone?”
Every June, the National Safety Council (NCS) encourages people and organizations to participate in National Safety Month, a time set aside to educate and influence behaviors around the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths. Each week is different and the focus of this week’s safety concern is slips, trips, and falls which are one of the nation’s leading causes of unintentional injuries treated in emergency departments. More often than not, adults ages 55 and older are affected but anyone can succumb to this type of injury according to the NSC. The main goal of National Safety Month is to raise public awareness of safety for every type of preventable injury.
Many of us know people who seem to be involved in one accident after the other. Could it be the some people are actually “accident-prone?” Studies have found links between accidents and certain character traits in people such as over-confidence, aggressiveness, chronic anger, and a lack of conscientiousness, with results that have been inconsistent at best. However, there is evidence that accidents may occur due to other factors like the following:
- Lack of Sleep: Not sleeping enough can impair performance and judgement when operating a vehicle as well as performing other tasks. As a result, people with conditions like sleep apnea (characterized by heavy snoring and disrupted sleep) are at a high risk for injuries and accidents.
- Alcohol: Aside from causing motor vehicle accidents, alcohol can make individuals more susceptible to falls, cuts, and burns. People using marijuana or other recreational drugs fall under this category as well.
- Medications: A lot of medications can cause confusion, grogginess, dizziness, and can dull reflexes. Medications that aid sleep, nighttime tranquilizers, and antihistamines can leave you impaired or make you feel drowsy the next day. Make sure you’re taking these medications when you are able to rest the next day.
- Poor Health: People in poor general health are more prone to injury, likely because they become fatigued more easily, may have trouble sleeping, and because they take a lot of medications. Also, being unfit physically can cause problems with balance especially the elderly. Those with mental illnesses may also be prone to injuries.
- Emotional Stress: Chronic emotional stress, deep grief, and serious emotional problems also increase accident risk. Studies of athletes, for example, have found that players under severe emotional or physical stress are more prone to to injury. In a related study, an initial serious injury to one person in a family can, in turn, produce stress that affects the entire family, often resulting in a cluster of injuries. A study published in Pediatrics showed that when a child was seriously hurt, there was a 20 percent chance that a sibling would be injured as well (or the first child re-injured) during the following three months.
- Distraction: This has become a large research area for safety experts, as people are spending more time trying to multitask, for example talking on the phone or texting while driving and texting while crossing the street.
- Poor “Situational Awareness”: Some people do not follow safety rules or take precautions because they simply misperceive risk or overestimate their ability to control a particular situation. This is particularly true of young men who tend to take more risks and sustain more injuries from car accidents because of the notion of “invincibility.”
- Unsafe Products and Environments: Unfortunately, we are not in control of every factor determining our safety. The government has the ability and should assist in keeping people safe by building safer roads, mandating safety features for cars and machinery, working with industry to ensure occupational and product safety, and tracking accidents and injuries to reduce risk.
If you or a family member have been under a lot of stress or have been experiencing a higher number of accidents than usual, heed the warning signs and seek professional help if necessary. At least try to take your time when performing tasks that could pose a threat and know your limitations. Be sure to follow safety rules even for something as simple as using a knife in the kitchen to prepare food. Remember, it only takes one accident to become seriously injured or worse, so follow as many safety precautions as possible, especially when getting behind the wheel.
Be informed. Be aware. Be prepared.