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December 15, 1999

Reductions in Motor Vehicle–Related Injuries and Deaths

Author Affiliations

Phil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthorMargaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorStephenLurieMD PhD, Fishbein FellowIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;282(23):2210-2211. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-282-23-jbk1215

To the Editor: I must protest the attempt by the "public health community" to claim credit for improved motor-vehicle safety.1 I believe in giving credit where credit is due, but not in claiming credit for results that are spuriously assigned to a public health effort of apparent dubious value.

Reduction in motor vehicle–related deaths decreased dramatically between 1925 and 1965, before the National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB) was created. Based on Figure 1 in the article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 the rate of decrease in deaths was greater before 1965 than after. Even accounting for the increase in vehicle miles traveled after 1965, it is apparent that we have done no better than the generations before us in reducing deaths from motor vehicle crashes. More important, from a policy standpoint, the rate of reduction in motor vehicle–related deaths already was established and has not been bettered by the " . . . application of standard public health methods and epidemiology . . . ." This has significant ramifications for establishing policy and allocating resources.

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