Accident Prevention

The Accident Toll

Accident prevention can save many lives. Accidents are the third most common cause of death of men in the United States (after heart disease and cancer), accounting for 6% of all male deaths. Accidents account for an especially high proportion of deaths of young men.

2005 Causes of Accidental Deaths
in the United States

Accident Type

Percent of Total

Motor Vehicle37.5
Medical Complications2.2
Forces of Nature1.8
Other transport2.6
Other nontransport13.9
Data is from the National Safety Council

Reducing Your Chances of Accidental Death

Motor Vehicles

Keeping your vehicle in good repair and driving safely are essential to motor vehicle accident prevention:

  • Avoid driving after drinking alcohol. Even one drink can impair driving ability.

  • Do not text, read, or do anything else that takes your eyes off the road.

  • Always wear a seat belt while driving and position it properly: across your chest and snugly over your hips.

  • Children under 40 lb must ride in an approved child seat in the back row. The center seat is safest. Use a rear-facing seat for children under 20 lb.

  • Keep your car in good running condition with all lights and signals working.

  • Promptly remove any snow and ice from windows, lights and mirrors.

  • Do not speed or travel faster than the weather and road conditions dictate.

  • Do not tailgate. It should take you at least 2 seconds to get to where the car in front of you is.

  • Subscribe to roadside assistance.

  • Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians and yield right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks.

  • Do not pass where it is prohibited.

  • Be cautious at railroad crossings and only drive onto them if there is clear passage ahead.

  • Avoid driving in the blind spots of other vehicles, especially trucks and buses.

  • Motorcyclists must drive with extra caution due to their greater vulnerability and lower stability.

  • If your car is disabled, get it as far off the road as possible and move passengers away from the car.

  • If you are cut off, tailgated, or otherwise endangered by another driver, keep a cool head and don’t retaliate by driving recklessly, berating, or threatening the other driver.


Accident prevention includes minimizing use of toxic materials and ensuring that poisonous substances and medications are stored safely and not used improperly:

  • Purchase products containing toxic chemicals only when non-toxic products will not fulfill the same function

  • Properly label products containing toxic chemicals and store them where children will not have access to them and vapors will not get into the home.

  • Try natural lawn care instead of using pesticides and herbicides on your lawn.

  • Prescription medications must only be used as directed and by the person for whom they are prescribed.

  • Tell your doctor about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or other supplements you are already taking because they may interact negatively with newly prescribed medications.

  • Store all medications out of the reach of children.


A major part of accident prevention is preventing falls:

  • Do not stand on unstable objects to reach high places.

  • Ladders must be placed on flat, stable surfaces and used only as directed.

  • Use only mats and rugs that have non-slip backings.

  • Use a rubber mat in the shower.

  • Keep night lights in the bathroom and hallways.

  • Keep your kitchen and bathroom floor dry.

  • Do not extend electrical cords across where people walk.

  • Ensure that stairways are well-lit, clear, and have sturdy handrails.

  • Keep clutter to a minimum.


Safe practices in and around water are essential for accident prevention:

  • Make sure you can swim well and teach children to swim at an early age.

  • Do not swim further from land or poolside than your capability dictates.

  • Always use a life vest when riding in a small watercraft and know where life jackets and lifeboats are located on larger boats.

  • Do not drive watercraft recklessly.

  • Do not use watercraft when the water is dangerously rough.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol when swimming or using watercraft. Men drown at a much higher rate than women, and alcohol is implicated in about 40% of male drowning.


Accident prevention must include steps to prevent fires:

  • Do not use space heaters with red-hot exposed coils.

  • Keep space heaters away from any flammable material.

  • Use smoke alarms and keep their batteries fresh.

  • Store gasoline and other highly flammable materials out of the house.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

  • Do not smoke anywhere where you might fall asleep, especially in bed. Better yet, if you smoke, quit. For help, see our list of proven ways to quit smoking.

  • Replace or repair electrical devices if they have frayed cords.

  • Plan escape routes in the event of fire.

  • Make sure each floor of the home has at least 2 escape routes. Use window fire ladders if necessary.


While firearm injuries are often intentional, many occur by accident. Therefore, safe firearm practices are essential to accident prevention. The American Medical Association, in its “Complete Guide to Men’s Health” (Perry and Schacht, Eds., 2001), urges men to consider not having a gun at all in their homes for the following reasons:

  • A firearm is 40 times more likely to kill or injure a family member than deter a criminal.

  • A firearm in the home increases the likelihood of suicide fivefold and the likelihood of homicide of a family member threefold.

  • Other methods of criminal deterrence (e.g. window bars, alarms, motion detector lighting, dogs) are more effective for home protection than firearms.

The AMA guide recommends that, if you still choose to keep a gun at home, you should observe the following precautions:

  • The gun should be stored unloaded, with a trigger lock, in a locked gun case within a locked drawer or cabinet.

  • The ammunition should be locked up in a different location.

  • Only responsible adults should have access to the keys for gun and ammunition storage places.

  • All adult family members should take a gun safety course.

  • Children must be taught to assume that any gun they come across, either outside or in someone’s house, might be real. They should not touch it but report its presence to an adult.

We understands the rationality of these recommendations, but also respects the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately, not every American can depend on the police for protection. The AMA recommendations might be too restrictive to allow for ready access to a firearm when it is needed for home protection. However, anyone who feels the need to have a firearm readily accessible for emergency self-defense should do all that is possible to make sure the gun stays out of the hands of children or emotionally unstable individuals, and is not used impulsively.

Other Transport

Bicycles are much more dangerous per mile traveled than are automobiles, so bicycle accident prevention is essential for protecting you and your family. Study conclusions differ, but the death rate per mile of cycling is 3-11 times as high as for automobiles. Bicyclists can improve their odds by observing the following recommendations:

  • Keep your bike well-maintained and adjusted.

  • At night, ride with a light and reflectors on bike and clothing or vest.

  • Always wear an approved bike helmet.

  • Use a rear-view mirror on helmet, glasses, or handlebar.

  • Avoid roads with heavy vehicular traffic and roads too narrow to safely accommodate both bike and car.

  • Stop at stop signs and red lights.

  • Ride on the right side of the road, in the direction of traffic.

  • Ride in single file when riding with others.

  • Beware at intersections, especially for cars that might turn in front of you.

  • When riding next to parked cars leave enough clearance not to be hit by an opening car door.

  • Yield to pedestrians.

  • Do not assume that drivers will notice your presence.

  • Avoid riding in rain or snow or on unstable surfaces.

When using other means of non-motorized transport, such as ice or roller skates, skate-boards, skis, scooters, etc. it is prudent to wear a helmet, avoid traveling faster or making more difficult maneuvers or tricks than your ability dictates, and beware of other sport participants or vehicles around you.

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