Kansas and Missouri are among the worst when it comes to protecting residents from the leading causes of preventable deaths and injuries, according to a new study from the National Safety Council.
And Missouri fared the worst in the nation in the study, The State of Safety. Kansas was the 11th worst.
The two states were among 11 that received a failing grade. Not one received an “A” in the report that looks at safety where people live and work and how they travel.
“We found with respect to the state of safety is that it’s not great across the United States,” said Debbie Hersman, president and chief executive officer of the National Safety Council. “Most states had a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ when it came to protecting their citizens.”
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Some states had high grades in some of the categories, so it’s possible to earn an “A,” she said.
“Most states don’t have the laws and regulations in place to achieve that,” she said.
The study examined laws, policies and regulations around issues in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that lead to the most preventable deaths and injuries. As well as an overall grade, the study graded states in three categories: road, workplace, and home and community safety.
Missouri earned an “F” across the board. Meanwhile, Kansas earned a “B” in road safety but an “F” in the two other categories. The state came in last in work place safety.
“I think citizens ought to be very concerned that their leadership is not advancing safety issues,” Hersman said. “When you see an ‘F’ in every space — at work, in homes and communities and on the road — I think that is concerning and seeing that a number of efforts need to be undertaken to just get them to a baseline.”
There’s a lot of opportunity for state leaders to pass laws and regulations that address safety issues, and both Kansas and Missouri could learn from what other states are doing to help improve the safety of their citizens, she said.
In Missouri, for example, the state was failing in road safety partly because it does not have a primary seat belt law, which allows police to stop motorists for not wearing one.
Critics of a primary seat belt law have called it an infringement on civil liberties. The issue is a matter of personal choice, they contend.
When it came to workplace safety, Missouri doesn’t have drug- or smoke-free places, nor a workplace wellness law.
“When it came to home and community safety, they (Missouri) were pretty miserable in this space — they were ranked 48th out of 51,” she said. “Everything from drowning to home fires to poisoning to youth sports related concussions, they were off track.”
In particular, Missouri remains the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program to guard against “doctor shopping” and prescription drug abuse — particularly when it comes to opioids.
Opioid overdoses are “one of the fastest growing areas of fatalities in the United States, Hersman said.
After months of debate, Missouri legislators failed to pass a prescription drug monitoring program this year. The House had approved a bill. The Senate, however, tacked on amendments, significantly modifying it.
Many supporters of the House bill balked at passing the Senate version that would have replaced tough county-based systems with a weakened statewide system.
In Kansas, the state could strengthen its child passenger safety laws as well as address the issue of children being left in hot cars. To improve safety at home and in the community, the state could add or strengthen policies and regulations to help prevent drownings and poisonings, Hersman said.
“They have a lot of work to do in those spaces,” Hersman said, “everything from CPR for high school graduates to barriers required around residential pools.”
The National Safety Council released the report Tuesday to wrap up National Safety Month, which is observed each June to draw attention to eliminating preventable deaths.
Each year, there are 40.6 million serious, preventable injuries. More than 146,000 are dying each year from something that is predictable and preventable, she said.
“The average age of someone dying from an unintentional injury is 46 years old,” she said. “That is somebody dying 33 years early.”