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A “Silent Epidemic”: Traumatic Brain Injury and Motor Vehicles

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One might expect that motor vehicle accidents contribute to an overwhelming majority of traumatic brain injury (TBI) fatalities in North Carolina. Surprisingly (and sadly), even more TBI deaths are sustained through some involvement with firearms. A study by the NC Division of Public Health states that “most of these deaths are either due to assault or self-inflicted injuries.” Personally, I hate to hear that these fatal injuries could have been prevented.

But accidents on the road that cause traumatic injuries are not an infrequent occurrence in North Carolina or nationwide. In 2008, nearly 600 deaths happened after a motor vehicle collision resulted in TBI.

Motor vehicle collisions that contribute to TBI deaths are most frequent in males between the ages of 25 and 34. This came as another surprise to me considering the frequency of collisions among males of an even younger demographic. I would expect that teenagers and young men in their early twenties experience more TBI-related deaths due to a lack of experience on the road and a load of bravado. Indeed, motor vehicle-related TBI deaths experience a small peak in women between the ages of 15-19, but are still more frequent in women between 35- and 44-years-old.

Happily, the rate of motor vehicle deaths due to TBI has decreased in recent years. From 2000-2008, these types of fatalities have gone down by over 25 percent. More standard safety features and technology have certainly contributed to this decrease. I like to think that raising awareness has also been positive influence on the way most people drive. I hope that people are beginning to think about wearing their seatbelts, insisting upon designated drivers and refusing to use their cell phones while on the road.

For more information regarding traumatic brain injury, look at this pdf or visit www.injuryfreenc.ncdhhs.gov.