Months go by and nothing out of the ordinary seems to happen. Life is a breeze, happy, fun-filled, frolic-some, and tranquil. Then, bang, it happens. In a split second your whole life is altered completely. You've had an accident. If you're an American, you are only one of the fifty million other accident statistics that occurred in the nation this year. Very likely somebody in your family or someone you know was hurt in an accident sometime during the past year, perhaps even killed. Each year accidents are the fourth leading cause of death, following heart diseases, cancer, and stroke. Between the ages of 1 and 24, accidents far and away are the leading cause of deaths, Between the ages of 15 and 24, accidents account for over half of all deaths. The aggregate cost of all accidents in 1974 was a whopping $43 billion, That $43 billion is only the monetary cost we must pay each year because of our own or someone else's foolishness, "mistakes," or errors in judgment. The amount of pain and suffering is incalculable.
Accidents Do Not Just "Happen"
Accidents are not due to "fate" or just a run of bad luck. They are not due to some "evil omen" or mysterious curse. The simple fact is that most accidents are due to a number of interrelated causes involving broken laws of nature, carelessness, uncontrolled emotions, and many other factors. And a penalty must be paid. We live in an accident-prone world. The fast pace of life, the incredible power in automobiles, the conveniences we take for granted - electricity, gas, mechanical marvels of all kinds - all pack an inner quality of danger if we are careless, Most industrial accidents, generally about 85%, are the result of unsafe acts. Safety devices, however ingenious and effective they may be, are futile unless they are used by workers. Many common household conveniences are also a potential source of accidents, Every time mother goes shopping she may bring home a poison - a detergent, a furniture cleaner, a spot remover, a drain-pipe cleansing agent, or a pesticide. Around two million accidental poisonings take place in the United States each year with many victims children under the age of five. Our marketplaces carry a thousand or so products containing poisonous chemicals. As society becomes more mechanized, the threat of grave or fatal accidents becomes greater from one small mistake. All too often, we continue driving our car when we know we are sleepy, maybe even nodding at the wheel. We gamble just a little too much while passing that slow truck on the highway, Ninety-nine times out of one hundred we might get away with it. But there is always that one time. Some people are accident-prone. Their style of living and their attitude toward life seem to draw accident after accident to their doorstep. The accident-prone seem to have more difficulty handling problems of boredom, loneliness, anxiety, frustration, fear, excitement, and sexual or mental conflict, reports Dr. Manuel Rodstein, a New York medical professor. False pride gets a lot of us into trouble. An elderly man may persist in driving his car even though he has lost his reflexes, hearing, or eyesight to a significant degree. A middle-aged woman may refuse to admit her fading youth and avoid wearing glasses, even though her vision is seriously impaired without them. A young athlete may refuse to report an injury for fear that it will reflect on his manliness. Men and women, young and old, refuse to stop working or playing when they become tired. These individuals are ripe for an accident. No weight is too heavy, no staircase is too dark, and no task is too hard for the victim of false pride. Lightning on a golf course, the absence of a lifeguard on a beach, storm warnings, speed limits, safety belts, safety glasses, or safety catches - all are ignored because all too often human pride believes "it can't happen to me!"
Home Is Where the Hurt Is
According to a recent bulletin from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, home accidents continue to take about twice as many lives as do work-related accidents. Only motor-vehicle accidents take a greater number of lives. In many cities, particularly the larger ones, home accidents actually outrank every other type of fatal mishap and are responsible for about 4.2 million disabling injuries (disabling beyond the day of accident) - more than twice the number incurred in motor vehicle accidents. More than five sixths of the fatalities due to fires and to poisoning by solids and liquids occur in the home each year; about half the accidental deaths from falls and from firearms also take place in the home. Falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the home. In one recent year such mishaps accounted for about one third of the total accidental mortality in the home, with most of these deaths concentrated at the older age levels. Fires and flames are responsible for about a fifth of the total home accident mortality and constitute the principal type of fatal accident in the home among adults aged 45 to 64 and among children 1 to 14 years old. Poisoning by solids and liquids, which ranks third among home mishaps, is the chief cause of fatal accidents in the age range 15 to 44. Mechanical suffocation and inhalation and ingestion of food and other objects are leading causes of fatal home accidents among infants under one year of age.
More Deadly Than Warfare
Around the world automobile accidents have reached "epidemic proportions." AI the present rate of motor vehicle carnage, one of every two American citizens living today can expect to be injured or killed in a traffic accident during his or her lifetime. Consider this tragic fact: Since the invention of the automobile, more than 2 million Americans have been killed in auto accidents - more than the total number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and all other wars involving the United States of America. While poor highway conditions enter into many car accidents, the overwhelming majority of all auto accidents (over 98%) could have been prevented by safe defensive driving or by proper automotive maintenance. Dr. James L. Malfetti, who has spent many years researching the causes of auto accidents, declared: "In its most simple form the results come to this - man drives as he lives." He added, "Evidence shows that people who adjust well to life's institutions will adjust well to the highway complex. A man who has trouble with a credit agency will have trouble in traffic. The poor driver is likely to be hostile, impulsive, and in trouble with social agencies." Uncontrolled emotions play a big role in not just auto accidents, but all accidents. For example, although safety belts are now available in practically all new cars, less than 40% of passengers use them. The National Safety Council in Accident Facts, 1975 edition, says, "Current information on the life-saving potential of lap-type safety belts indicates that if all passenger car occupants (in the United States) used belts at all times, such use would save at least 12,000 lives annually." Isn't your life worth the few seconds it takes to snap a safety harness in place? Our familiarity with cars and marvels of modern living spawns complacency and inattention. And inattention is a primary cause of accidents. God intended that we live full and active lives. Not aft accidents can be avoided. But we can eliminate many needless ones, or minimize their severity, by more alertness and foresightedness. Solomon wrote: "The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won't face facts" (Proverbs 14:8, The Living Bible).
Control Your Emotions and Live Longer
Among the causes predisposing us to accidents are fatigue and emotions such as worry, anxiety, and anger. When our brain gets out of gear, the drive of emotions heads us toward a smash. Emotions can block our senses so that we are really "deafened" or "blinded" to possible dangers. They interfere with clear thinking. Being in a bad humor is a dangerous state. A person in a cheerful, kindly, happy mood is less likely to incur an accident than one in a mood of discontent, grief, or despair. When we are irritated, fee ling below par, or frustrated. we have to be extra careful in everything we do, for these feelings make us Silting ducks for accidents. Irritability may arise from unsatisfied desires or the annoying actions of people. A succession of irritations over trifles - and some days seem to be full of them - may build up a condition that makes it impossible for us to exercise emotional control in an emergency. Boredom and despondency over the course of personal or world affairs invite us to go on a spree of danger-courting. Some people believe that the only remedy for these mental upsets is action, and the action they take is too often hasty and unthinking. Anger is not only one of the seven deadly sins but is also one of the unbalancing forces that incline us to do dangerous acts. It makes us less ready than usual for accuracy of thought, and it interferes with our exercise of control in an emergency. We are not only likely to speak harshly when angry, but also to behave recklessly. Patience is an ingredient of safety. A person who habitually acts on impulse is gambling with his safety and often suffers the bitter consequences of over-hasty action. Fatigue, another ingredient of accidents, is a device of nature to keep within safe limits. Don't Ignore it.
Reprinted with permission of The Royal Bank of Canada, copyright 1975.
Commonly Neglected Safety Precautions
Your safety is made up of little things. You should take the time to walk a few feet to throw a switch, to get a better tool, or to move an obstruction from the floor; you should stand back a few feet to get a good look at the apparatus you are going to work on; you should get a long, dear view before pulling out to pass the car in front, and you should use your "turn" signal. Your safety is largely a matter of foresight. Here are some other areas to work on: • Keep the work area in your home, factory. or office neat and clean. A cluttered, messy work area is an invitation to trouble. Junk on the floor, spilled greasy substances, scattered tools and materials, or objects poised dangerously against walls could be an invitation to a life-long injury. • Note potentially dangerous areas in your home: obstacles, frayed wires, frayed rugs, torn linoleum, slippery floors, loose scatter rugs, and loosely hanging articles from the ceiling. • Watch how you switch on electricity. Never touch a switch or an outlet when your hands are wet. Do not touch an electric appliance and a water pipe or radiator at the same lime. Do not meddle with electric connections when you are barefoot. (A man who was a genius in electronics absent-mindedly picked up the live end of an electrical connection while barefoot. with disastrous results.) • Store all potentially poisonous products in locked cabinets, closets, or drawers. (Two thirds of home poisonings involve children under five.) • A void taking medicine in front of children, and never refer to any medicine as candy. • Keep all products in their original containers. Never transfer them to containers that could ca use them to be confused with food. • Make certain all products are Labeled, and always read the labeling before using them. • Keep a first-aid chart of what to do for common injuries, burns, and poisons. • Keep yards, garages, storage rooms, basements, and play areas free of trash and bottles. • Keep guns and ammunition in separate places, preferably under lock and key. Do not allow children to play with guns. • Remove nails from boards not in use. • Keep sharp objects out of the reach of children. Do not allow children to run with wooden sticks or with articles that may break if the children fall (e.g., bottles, glasses, plastic toys). • Mark or identify large picture walkthrough doors so that unsuspecting individuals will see them and not walk into them. • Unplug electric cords when equipment is not in use. • Sweep up broken glass promptly and discard cracked china and glassware. Use nonbreakable dishes and containers for all children and around tile and cement surfaces.