When it comes to preventing serious injury, Illinois is an infinitely safer state to be in than Missouri, at least according to a new report released this morning by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The report, entitled The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, ranks the 50 states, plus Washington, DC, in terms of their injury-prevention policies, which include such measures as seatbelt laws, helmet laws, restrictions against drunk driving and regulations to prevent "intimate partner violence" (by which they mean people in romantic relationships who don't necessarily live together). Unlike a lot of those state ranking thingies, this report is based on several years of actual research.
And so we learn that Missouri has the 16th highest rate of injury deaths in the country with an average of 70.2 injury-related deaths per 100,000 people from 2007-2009. That costs Missouri insurance payers $38.4 million, and the state loses $4 billion due to lost lives. Illinois was 45th with 48.7 deaths per 100,000, at a cost to $60.6 million to insurers and $6.2 billion because of lost workers. The national average is 57.9 deaths per 100,000.
(In case you're wondering, the safest state -- well, in terms of injury-related deaths -- is New Jersey. The least safe is New Mexico.)
For children -- which, for the purposes of this survey, is anyone 19 or younger -- Missouri ranks tenth for injury-related deaths, with 27.6 per 100,000. Illinois comes in at 33 with 17.4; the national average is 18.37.
In terms of establishing laws to prevent more injury-related deaths, Missouri landed in the bottom half of the survey. While there are laws that require people to use motorcycle helmets and car booster seats and hospitals to use medical codes to track injuries of ER patients, and while there are measures in place to prevent concussions and allow people in abusive relationships to get protection orders, in other ways the state is lacking.
There are no primary seat belt laws, no mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers, no bicycle helmet laws for kids and no prescription drug monitoring program (though legislation for this is pending). Also, while adults in abusive relationships can get restraining orders, teenagers cannot; for teens, Missouri has among the worst preventative measures in the entire country.
(NB: An ignition interlock is a little Breathalyzer connected to your car's ignition. If the machine determines you have a too-high blood alcohol level, the car won't start.)
Illinois, by contrast, among the criteria set up by the report, only lacks for helmet laws (both motorcycle and bicycle) and hospital coding.
The report, though long and sort of wonky, makes for interesting reading, particularly when you consider how much injury-prevention laws vary across the country and how much these laws -- much as we sometimes mock them -- actually do save people's lives. In California, for instance, the number of traffic deaths dropped by 22 percent in the two years after the state instituted a ban on talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. Also in California in 2011, more the 460,000 people were convicted of violating that ban. Old habits die hard.
And no, Missouri is not among the 10 states where it's illegal to talk on a hand-held phone. Nor is it among the 37 states where it's illegal to text and drive. Insert your own comment about Missouri drivers here.