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May Injury Prevention

May is National Trauma Awareness Month.

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, and this year’s focus is on the dangers of distracted driving. This is an ever growing concern that puts drivers, passengers, and other vehicles on the road at risk for serious injury.

The 2012 National Trauma Awareness Month campaign slogan is, “Decide to Drive – Arrive Alive!” As an active trauma center, we strongly encourage our community members to take this message to heart and not only practice good driving habits, but work with other family members, especially teen drivers, on their responsibility of practicing safe driving habits. Being allowed to drive is a privilege, not a right.

Distracted driving by definition is any activity that takes the driver’s mind off the driving, hands off the wheel, and/or eyes off the road. Simply put, it’s anything that doesn’t allow the driver’s full attention to be focused on driving with maximum safety. Receiving a text message takes 4.6 seconds on average to read. Those seconds are the equivalent of driving 55 mph the length of a football field blindfolded.

Driving and using a hands-free or hand-held phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. This reduction in brain activity is more than enough time to be involved in a crash or near-crash. Using a cell phone delays the driver’s reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 mg/dL, the legal limit. Remind family members and friends to turn off their phones while driving and call back when the destination is reached, or pull off the road to answer. No phone call is worth a life.

Stats to consider:
  • In 2009 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and 448,000 were injured
  • Two-thirds of fatal teen crashes are caused by a simple driver error.

The importance of these statistics is that they are all preventable!

Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. Consider making a pledge with family members to avoid participating in distracting activities as either the driver or the passenger. Studies show having two peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is driving. Two-thirds of teens who die in car crashes are passengers.

Before handing over the car keys to your teen remind them about your expectations and their responsibilities for driving. Be very clear as to what those expectations are – no drinking, no distractions, no horseplay, and keep conversation to a minimum while driving. Remind them that if they are taking passengers with them, the driver is also responsible for the passengers’ safe arrival.

Teens aren’t the only ones participating in distracted driving. Consider the number of times you’ve looked in your rear view mirror and seen someone on the phone, applying makeup or looking for something in the car that could wait until stopped. How often do you engage in these activities? We all imitate someone we respect or highly regard, so be sure you set the example for your children. What they see you do is what they will do regardless of how many times you talk about safe driving. Be the example you’d like them to follow.

Injury opportunities are all around us, but distracted driving is one that can be stopped now. Make it a habit to practice good driving behaviors at all times.

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