emergency departments, accounting for approximately 8 million visits to the emergency department yearly. Motor vehicles remain an important cause of injury accounting for approximately 3.8 million visits to the emergency department per year (Fingerhut and Warner, 1997).
Although most nonfatal injuries are of minor severity and do not result in more than one or two days of restricted activity, a large number result in fractures, brain injuries, major burns, or other significant disability. In 1992–1994, the average hospital discharge rates for fractures—which account for nearly 2 out of 5 injury-related discharges—was 39.3 per 10,000 persons. During this same period, the other leading injury-related discharge diagnoses were poisonings, open wounds and lacerations, intracranial injuries, and sprains and strains. These accounted for 25 percent of first-listed injury hospital discharges. Fractures typically required six to seven days of hospitalization, whereas the other diagnoses, on average, required three to four days of hospitalization (Fingerhut and Warner, 1997).
Social and demographic characteristics may influence the risk of injury. Surveillance systems, through ongoing and systematic collection of data, can provide information that allows the identification of patterns of injury in specific localities or nationally. Data from surveillance systems may be used to implement prevention strategies in areas designated at high risk for specific types of injuries or hazards. Analyzing cause-specific injury data by age, gender, ethnicity, or occupation helps to focus prevention planning.
The percentage of all deaths that were caused by an injury was greater for males (9 percent) than for females (4 percent). Among males ages 15–19 years and 20–24 years, 83 and 80 percent, respectively, of all deaths were caused by injuries compared with 69 and 56 percent among females. With increasing age, the percentages decrease for both males and females. For persons 65 years and over, about 2 percent of all deaths were caused by injuries.
Although injury is a leading cause of childhood death, injury death rates are lowest for children under 15 years of age. The injury death rate for infants in 1995 (29 per 100,000 population) was about 2–3 times the rate for children 1–4 years, 5–9 years, and 10–14 years of age. For persons 15–74 years of age, injury death rates ranged from 49 per 100,000 at 55–64 years to 80 per 100,000 at 20–24 years. Although injury is not a leading cause of death in the elderly, rates