While the country has made tremendous strides in the past few decades reducing some types of accidents, the overall rate of accidental fatalities in the United States (39.4 fatalities per 100,000 population) has actually increased 10% since the year 2000. Accidents cost America over $750 billion per year, a number that represents 5.7% of the gross national product, or almost $2,500 for every man, woman and child in the country. At $323 billion, home and public is the most expensive accident category followed by motor vehicle at $241 billion and work accidents at $189 billion.
Municipalities, Counties and Boards of Education are on the front line for many serious safety issues impacting the public. For example, New Jersey has the twelfth highest pedestrian accident rate in the country. While there has been a steady reduction in motor vehicle fatalities, the accident rate is now increasing because of distracted driving including the use of cell phones and text messaging. Safety and health issues of an aging population has put a tremendous burden on municipal emergency responders at a time when budgets are tight. Another rising concern is concussion injuries arising from sports and recreation programs.
The solution to these issues must include officials at all levels. Priorities are determined by what leaders decide to place on their agenda. For a safety program to be successful, it must be given consistent attention. The safety program’s status should be a recurring item on the governing body’s regular agenda.
In 1998, the Community Safety Leadership program was created to provide basic safety information to local officials. Until 2013, the program was an informal group of organizations including the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund (MEL), the State Association of Chief’s of Police and Munich-America Reinsurance of Princeton. This group distributed numerous booklets and videos to officials and conducted a series of seminars.
To expand this program, leaders of this informal association decided to incorporate the New Jersey Safety Institute as a non profit volunteer organization to serve as a statewide safety advocate. New members joining the program include the office of the New Jersey State Risk Manager, the New Jersey Association of Counties, the NJ School Association Insurance Group, the School Pool for Excess Liability Limits (SPELL), Safety National Casualty Corporation and the GENESIS Insurance Company.