CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Think the $30 price tag on a bike helmet is expensive? What about $151,587 to treat head trauma? It’s your choice.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Your Choice campaign reminds Tennesseans that they can help protect their health and their pocketbooks by making good choices.

Millions of Americans are rushed to emergency rooms each year for accidents and injuries that could be prevented.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), failure to wear a bicycle helmet results in an estimated 500 fatalities and 151,000 head injuries each year, totaling $3 billion in medical costs.

Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that annually 9,000 lives are lost and 143,000 injuries sustained by crash victims who fail to wear their seat belts. The associated health care costs equal $26 billion.

“Simple safety measures could mean the difference between a few bumps and bruises or your life,” said Dr. Steve Coulter, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BlueCross.

The NHTSA indicates that the use of seat belts can significantly decrease risk of serious injury and improve automobile crash survival rates by 73 percent.

For bicycle crashes, the CDC reports that proper headgear can reduce the risk of serious head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.

“Whether riding a bike or driving a car—whatever the activity—you need to be aware of how your behavior and choices can impact your health as well as your wallet,” Coulter said. “When you take steps to avoid accidents and injuries, you help keep costs down for you and everyone in your health plan.”

Tennesseans can help stay safe and hold down costs in some very simple ways:

· Use helmets when riding bikes, motorcycles, skates, skateboards,scooters, ATVs or horses.

· Always buckle up when driving or riding in a car.

· Take special care to properly buckle up or secure young children.

· Choose and use the right equipment for the sports and recreation activities that you enjoy.

· Observe all rules and safety precautions regardless of the activity.

The Your Choice Prevent Injuries message is part of BlueCross’ continuing awareness campaign, designed to educate Tennessee businesses and their employees that when it comes to the cost of health care, their choices can make a difference.

The Prevent Injuries topic and 11 other health/cost messages are available on a CD toolkit. BlueCross fully-insured and self-funded group accounts can obtain a free copy of the toolkit by contacting their BlueCross account manager or by sending an e-mail to YourChoice@bcbst.com. The kit contains two CDs, with materials provided in both English and Spanish versions.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.