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Minnesota makes strides in making roads safer

At a time when tens of thousands of Americans are injured or die on our nation's roadways each year, Minnesota received one of the lowest scores in a new roadway safety scorecard released by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).

The report, 2008 ENA National Scorecard on State Roadway Laws: A Blueprint for Injury Prevention, examines roadway safety laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and scores each based on 13 criteria.

Each year, emergency nurses treat thousands of patients who are involved in traffic incidents and recognize the importance of laws in promoting safe driving and preventing injury, particularly around busy holiday seasons.

The 2008 ENA National Scorecard ranks states based on 13 types of legislation that address: seat belt use; child passenger safety; graduated driver licensing for teens; universal motorcycle helmet requirements; ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving; and giving the proper officials the authority to develop, maintain and evaluate a state trauma system. States received one point for each type of legislation.

Minnesota received a score of five - the third lowest score - because it does not have laws addressing: seat belt use; motorcycle helmet requirements; child passenger safety; or ignition interlock devices to prevent repeat driving while intoxicated offenses. Oregon and Washington were the only states to receive the best possible score of 13.

The ENA released its first National Scorecard in 2006. That year, Minnesota received a score of three. Since 2006, the state has passed graduated driver's licensing laws that place restrictions on passengers and nighttime driving.

"Last year, there were 504 traffic fatalities on Minnesota roadways," said Minnesota Emergency Nurses Association President Joan Somes, RN, MSN, PhD, CEN, NREMT-P, FAEN. "We have the knowledge and models to pass laws that could dramatically reduce those numbers, now we have to demand them. When it comes to injury prevention, the public is in the driver's seat. As emergency nurses who see roadway accident victims every day, we are working to increase public will to pass traffic safety laws that we know will work. Here in Minnesota, we have made some progress since the 2006 ENA National Scorecard, but there is still much we need to do to make our roadways safer."

Today in the United States, more than 45 million people do not have access to high-level trauma care within an hour after injury. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that will allow them to develop and maintain statewide trauma systems. Minnesota has passed such legislation.

"Perhaps more than anyone, an emergency nurse understands the role of immediate and appropriate care in preventing injuries from becoming fatalities," said ENA President Denise King, RN, MSN, CEN. "While most people can choose where they receive routine health care, victims of motor vehicle accidents usually have no alternative. They are taken to the closest health care facility. A trauma system ensures that crash victims are taken to trauma centers that can provide the type and level of care commensurate with their injuries."

State legislative information in the 2008 ENA National Scorecard on State Roadway Laws: A Blueprint for Injury Prevention is current as of October 22, 2008. The full report is available online at