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Is An "Accident" Really An Accident?

A basic reason why we don't pay more attention to safety is that the word "accident" is used incorrectly. The dictionary defines accident as "an unexpected and undesirable event, something that occurs unexpectedly or unintentionally, fortune or chance." I have no quarrel with the "undesirable," but the belief that accidents are unexpected or the result of fortune or chance is misleading.

For example, is an accident unexpected when someone using a ladder reaches out too far and falls instead of taking time to reposition the ladder? Does an accident occur by fortune or chance when a person consistently tailgates and then, in a moment of inattention, slams into the driver ahead of him? Is it fate when a boater drinks too much and then collides with another boat on a lake at night?

The obvious answer is no! Most accidents can be better described as failures; failures on our part and failures on the part of others.


A few years into the future, a new drug-resistant virus suddenly appears in the U.S., striking indiscriminately: newborns and senior citizens are felled; it takes a particularly heavy toll on teenagers and young adults. Over 90,000 die each year, and millions more are disabled, some permanently. A person will leave home in the morning and, later in the day, a loved one will receive the terrible news that he or she has died or is seriously ill.

The disease quickly becomes headline news. There is no cure, but preventive measures are found and publicized. As these are developed, organizations create elaborate plans to inform their employees.

Still the disease rages. It is usually contracted as the result of an individual's failure to take proper precautions. Worse, many people are infected as a result of others' failure to follow the preventive guidelines.

This fictional virus would surely stir a national effort to find a cure. Yet today, something is causing widespread death and injury on a similar scale, and the response is surprisingly muted. I'm talking about accidents, and our apparent willingness to tolerate such a huge casualty toll year after year, when good safety habits, practiced consistently, could save thousands of lives each year.

The only acceptable grade when it comes to safety is 100 percent. For example, in your house you might have stairs that you use thousands of time a year. A grade of 99.9 percent isn't good enough, because that one fall could result in a serious injury.

One purpose of this book is to alert you to the many hazards you and your family face in daily living - from driving the family car, to cooking, to swimming, to taking those first steps as a toddler. The goal is to help you avoid serious accidents. It wasn't too long ago that children rode their bikes through the streets without wearing safety helmets. Car seats for children were flimsy contraptions that offered no protection. Potent medicines didn't have safety caps to guard against curious children rifling through the medicine cabinet, and few parents gave serious thought to childproofing their houses.

Family safety awareness has come a long way since then, yet most families still lack a systematic approach to safety. The information that is available comes to you in a variety of ways - magazines, newspapers, TV, and the "School of Hard Knocks." Rather than the traditional piecemeal approach, this book will give you and your family an organized and comprehensive way to address safety issues.

Best regards,

John Myre

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