Category Archives: Transportation
NHTSA: Free VIN Searches Will Let Drivers Check for Safety Recalls
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will next year require that automakers and motorcycle manufactures provide free online search services for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) so that consumers can search for information on uncompleted recalls. Consumers will also be able to use a central government site (SaferCar.gov) to determine whether a recall has been issued on a vehicle and whether the remedy has been performed. "Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners—the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe." Read more on transportation.
Quick Change to Mellow Music Reduces the Risk of Road Rage
Smooth jazz could save your life—or at least keep you from doing something impulsive behind the wheel. According to a new report in the journal Ergonomics, switching to mellow music in a car can help drivers stay calm during stressful situations that could lead to road rage. Studies have already linked “upbeat” music to more aggressive driver behavior and “downbeat” music with more relaxed, safer behavior. However, the question before the researchers was whether a quick change or a gradual change to calmer music was more effective; they determined that drivers in both conditions would reach the same calm state, but drivers who changed the music abruptly would become calmer—and driver safer—sooner. The results show that "during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective," concluded researcher Marjolein van der Zwaag, of Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, and colleagues in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California. Read more on safety.
HUD: $12.8M in ‘Sweat Equity’ Grants to Create Affordable Homes
Through its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded approximately $12.8 million in “sweat equity” grants to create at least 718 affordable homes. The four non-profit, self-help housing organizations that received the funds will work to reduce the cost of the homes for working families. “Sweat equity” is the increased value of a property due to restoration and upkeep efforts by the owners. “Today, we make another investment in the American Dream for hundreds of working families,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Using their own labor, along with sweat equity from armies of volunteers, these families will construct their own homes and become stakeholders in their own neighborhoods.” To qualify, a minimum of 50 sweat equity hours is required from a household of one person and a minimum of 100 sweat equity hours is required from a household of at least two people. The work can include landscaping, foundation work, painting, carpentry, trim work, drywall, roofing and siding for the housing. Read more on housing.
Kids and their parents aren’t the only ones who need to do some back-to-school prep as the fall term starts. A new survey of U.S. school bus drivers released by the National Association of Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NADPTS) last week found that more than 80,000 vehicles illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day this past year. That translates to nearly 15 million violations during the 180-day school year, according to the association.
Laws and regulations can vary somewhat by state, but generally drivers must come to a full stop when they are behind or across the street from a school bus when it has its stop sign out and its lights are flashing. The NADPTS maintains a list of state laws regarding what cars must do when they see a stopped school bus.
No one organization keeps tabs on all children injured and killed by drivers who didn’t stop for a school bus, but three children were killed in such accidents in North Carolina alone last year, bringing that state’s total of children killed in such accidents to a dozen since 1998.
“There are nearly a half million school buses on the road each day in the United States,” said Max Christensen, NADPTS president, and, “any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child’s life.” According to the association, some states are adopting more stringent safety measures, such as improved motorist education, increased fines, and more law enforcement, including the use of photo evidence in court cases from cameras mounted on the sides of school buses.
>>Recommended Reading: To help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities related to school bus accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a school bus safety website stocked with information.
The following post originally appeared on the Harvard Law School blog, Bill of Health, launched in September 2012 by Harvard's Petrie-Flom Center. The blog explores news, commentary, and scholarship in the fields of health law policy, biotechnology, and bioethics. This post examines the policies that impact proper use of child car seats and booster seats.
Author Kathleen West is an intern with the Public Health Law Research program. Her summer work has included researching and creating a comprehensive dataset on child restraint systems across the United States using LawAtlas, a gateway database to key laws aimed at improving our health or access to health care. Read more on LawAtlas.
As the world watched Prince William place the new royal baby, reluctantly snug in his car seat, into a vehicle a few weeks ago, my thoughts were not limited to, “Oh, how cute!” After two months researching and collecting a dataset to capture the U.S. laws and regulations for child passenger restraint systems, I also thought, “I wonder if he took a class and knows how to do that correctly?” Perhaps an odd thought, but misuse and faulty installation of child restraint systems is actually a major concern.
According to the CDC, proper restraint use can reduce the risk of death or injury by more than 50 percent. Yet, ongoing studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are finding that as many as 20 percent of drivers with child passengers are not reading any of the instructions regarding proper installation, while 90 percent of drivers of child passengers are reporting that they are confident that they are properly installing and using child restraint systems.
>>NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newPublichealth.org.
“Oh my gosh, what have I done?” That’s the first question a man asked himself after he looked up from texting “I Love You” to his wife, to find that his car had crashed into a buggy carrying an Amish family and killing three of their children. That story, and three others, make up a new 36-minute video by acclaimed documentary film maker Werner Herzog, “From One Second to the Next.” The video was produced for AT&T and supported by Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, to show drivers of all ages what can happen when texting while driving. In the documentary, what happens is that five people die, two have their health ruined and bills pile up into the millions, and one sees his injuries put an end to his career.
Wireless firms hope to distribute the film to tens of thousands of high schools, safety organizations and through government agencies for maximum impact.
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2011 alone. “When you get a message while driving, it’s hard not to pick up your phone,” said Herzog. “With this film, we want to help make people more aware of the potential consequences of that action.”
Almost everything touches public health. From understanding care options to access to nutritious food to being able to breathe clean air—it all works together to prevent disease and promote healthy living. That includes the types of available transportation.
>>View NewPublicHealth’s infographic exploring the role of transportation in the health of our communities, “Better Transportation Options = Healthier Lives.”
The Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Health and Transportation (H+T) was formed in the Summer of 2011 to provide a variety of disciplines the opportunity to share and compare transportation-related health research in an academic environment. It’s a place where engineers, public health professionals, planners, epidemiologists, advocates and others can identify, advance and publish research that advances our understanding of transportation infrastructure and policies affect public health. [Editor’s Note: Read NewPublicHealth’s coverage of last year’s Transportation Research Board conference.]
The H+T Subcommittee’s areas of interest and study include sustainable and active transportation modes (e.g., walking, biking, transit); mobility and accessibility; safety; transportation-related air pollution and noise impacts; and social cohesion and other social, physical and mental health impacts.
State and local government across the country are already utilizing engineering and design solutions to improve public health in their communities, according to The Network for Public Health Law, which provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“In Massachusetts and Minnesota, transportation officials are exploring infrastructures that allow for ‘active transportation’—like walking and bicycling—which can help prevent weight gain and lower the risks of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In Washington and California, programs are incorporating transit-oriented development strategies to improve environmental health and access to healthy foods.”
>>Read more on how transportation can impact health.
International Making Cities Livable Conference: UCLA’s Richard Jackson on Shaping Healthy Suburban Communities
"We have medicalized what is in fact an environmental-driven set of diseases," said Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, professor and chair of environmental health science at the UCLA School of Public Health, in a keynote presentation that energized and galvanized discussion among the diverse audience of city planners, architects and public officials at this week’s International Making Cities Livable Conference. This year’s conference focuses on bringing together a vision— across sectors—of how to shape healthy suburban communities.
Jackson, a prominent pediatrician and host of the “Designing Healthy Communities” series that aired on PBS, told an all-too-familiar story of a child who comes into a doctor’s office overweight and with alarming cholesterol and blood pressure results even at a young age. So the doctor prescribes behavior change: No soft drinks in the house. No screens in the bedroom. Exercise, do more, and come back in two months. In two months, what’s changed? Nothing. The food at school is still unhealthy, the neighborhood is still unsafe to play in and the family still uses the car to get absolutely everywhere because there is no other choice. The likely outcome for that child and so many others, said Jackson, is to end up on costly cholesterol medication just two months later when the child’s vital statistics continue to spiral out of control.
"It’s a 20th century idea that our minds are separated from our bodies, and our communities are separated from ourselves,” he Jackson, who reminded the crowd that the most critical health advancements in the last century took place because of changes in infrastructure, not medicine—primarily new sanitary standards to curb out-of-control infectious disease.
Now, said Jackson, “We’ve built America around the car” and we need a whole new set of infrastructure changes to re-build communities that offer better opportunities for health as part of everyday life. “The built environment is social policy in concrete.”
International Making Cities Livable Conference: A NewPublicHealth Q&A with Conference Co-Founder Suzanne Lennard
NewPublicHealth is on the road this week at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland and the International Making Cities Livable Conference meeting in Portland, Oregon. Watch out for session coverage, Q&As with presenters and other updates from both conferences this week.
The International Making Cities Livable Council is an interdisciplinary, international network of individuals and cities dedicated to making our cities and communities more livable, with a focus on how the built environment impacts the wellbeing of the people who live in a community. This year’s conference focuses on creating healthy suburbs. And though health is an inextricable component of a livable city or suburb, this concept also includes enabling healthy social interaction; fostering a healthy local economy; creating safe spaces where children can grow up successfully; and more. NewPublicHealth coverage will focus on the critical connection between health and livability.
Prior to the conference, we connected with Suzanne Lennard, co-founder of the International Making Cities Livable Conference, who provided critical context on just what makes a city livable, and some of the contextual history on how our nation’s cities and suburbs strayed from livability—and what we can learn from other counties in getting back to healthy, livable places to live, learn and play.
NewPublicHealth: How did you come to found the International Making Cities Livable Conference?
Suzanne Lennard: My husband, who died several years ago, was a medical sociologist and social psychologist and his field was the study of social interaction in different settings and under different circumstances. When I met him, I was studying for a PhD at UC Berkeley in Human Aspects of Architecture and Urban Design and I was interested in how the built environment enhanced well-being. We started working together and since we were both from Europe—he was Viennese and I was from England—we began to look at how some European cities were enhancing well-being.
Britain to Regulate, Improve Quality of E-Cigarettes
The British government plan to regulate electronic cigarettes as non-prescription medicine starting in 201, according to Reuters. E-Cigarettes are battery-operated devices that contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that, "As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing:
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
- how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
- if there are any benefits associated with using these products."
The devices do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA. According to Reuters, "Under the new British system, manufacturers will have to prove the quality of their products and demonstrate that they deliver the correct amount of nicotine. But they will not need to conduct clinical trials." Read more on tobacco and nicotine.
Even Hands-Free Devices Create Unsafe, Distracted Driving Conditions
A new report from AAA finds that even hands-free mobile devices create mental distractions that can drain attention away from focusing on the road and safe driving. The study found that mentally-distracted drivers—those who may not have even taken their eyes off the road but were distracted by speaking with someone through a hands-free device—missed visual cues, had slower reaction times, and even exhibited a sort of "tunnel vision" by not checking side- and rear-view mirrors or actively scanning the full roadway for potential hazards. Activities like listening to the radio or an audio book was mildly distracting (but likely not enough to effect driving safety); conversing with others (whether with fellow passengers, with someone via hand-held device or with some via hands-free device) was moderately but significantly distracting; and using a device with speech-to-text technology to send text messages or e-mails was highly distracting. Researchers hope these findings can be used to help craft science-based policies on driver distraction. Read more on safety.
CDC Partners with 104 Businesses to Improve Employee Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through its partner Viridian Health Management, has identified 104 employers in eight counties across the nation that have voluntarily chosen to participate in the National Healthy Worksite Program, a new initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease and building a healthier, more productive U.S. workforce—while also cutting health care costs. The initiative primarily focuses on small and mid-sized employers. a national evaluation will document best practices and models on how to successfully implement workplace health programs in small worksites more broadly. Read more on what businesses are doing to create healthier communities.
“We know PSA campaigns can make a big impact; that they can improve people’s lives.”
The Advertising (Ad) Council has just launched a new version of its digital distribution platform, PSA Central, which is geared toward PSA directors and media outlets, but is also valuable for anyone who wants to share the messages including educators and public health practitioners. The site offers easy access to video, print, radio, online, mobile and outdoor media public service advertisements that range from bullying prevention to food safety education.
Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) may actually date back to the civil war when newspapers offered free advertising space to the U.S. government to advertise bonds whose revenues were used to pay for the war effort. These days, PSAs are much more likely to be public safety messages such as a United Kingdom video PSA, downloaded over 2 million times on YouTube, reminding people just why they should buckle up in a car. And more importantly, these efforts are being measured and tracked to show impact on health behavior change and health outcomes, such as the Ad Council’s drunk driving prevention campaign that has encouraged 70 percent of Americans to take action to stop a friend from driving drunk.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, about the public health messages PSAs can convey and how new media has expanded their reach.
NewPublicHealth: How have PSAs evolved over the years?
Peggy Conlon: PSAs have evolved quite a bit. The Ad Council is 71 years old and back in the earliest days PSAs were seen in newspapers and heard over the radio. Since then they have been showcased on just about all media platforms. In the 90s we were introduced to the Internet and everything changed forever. The Internet added another new dimension to our ability, in a very tangible and personal way, to engage communities around social issues.
NPH: What are some of the most effective and iconic campaigns in public service advertising?
NIH Grants $40M to Combat Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Stroke Risk
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $40 million in grants over five years to help four research centers investigate and develop strategies to reduce the risk of stroke in racial and ethnic minorities. The funds come from NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Racial and ethnic minorities are at higher risk than non-whites due to higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, according to said Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, deputy director, NINDS. "A few of the grantees are working closely with at-risk populations to develop interventions that give people tools to achieve blood pressure control," he said. "These research efforts will give us the traction we need to control the greatest modifiable stroke risk factor. Together, the Stroke Prevention /Intervention Research Programs represent a much needed effort to address stroke disparities in the United States." Read more on stroke.
People With Congenital Heart Disease Need Physical Activity
A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association serves to remind health professionals and patients that regular physical activity is important for people with congenital heart disease and should be promoted. Congenital heart disease (heart structural problems existing since birth) impacts close to 1 million children and 1 million adults in the United States. Specifics of the new statement include:
- While some irregular heart beat conditions may require a restriction in physical activity, “for most, physical activity can be unlimited and should be strongly promoted.”
- Most patients with congenital heart disease are relatively sedentary. But the physical, psychological and social health benefits of physical activity are important for this population which is at risk for exercise intolerance, obesity and other diseases. .
- These are general recommendations and physicians may have to tailor some specific guidelines for individual patients.
Read more on heart health.
DOT Announces Funds to Help Improve Road Safety on Tribal Lands
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced the availability of more than $8.6 million in Tribal Transportation Program Safety Funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the funds will help improve roads on tribal lands, which have consistently ranked among the nation’s highest road fatality rates. DOT will hold a webinar on May 8 from 4-5 p.m. EDT to provide information on the grants to potential applicants. Find a link to the webinar here. Read more on transportation.