Thursday, April 26, 2012


APRIL IS DISTRACTION AWARENESS MONTH!

Imagine that you are blindfolded and driving 55 miles per hour.

It will take about 4.5 seconds for you to travel the length of a football field.

4.5 seconds is the average amount of time it takes for people to look down and check their phone for a message.

Distracted driving is not just a problem with youth - it is a problem for everyone. From those who are pedestrians, not watching as they cross the street (because they are texting or have their hearing impeded by ear buds) - to drivers who just 'look down for a moment' and end up in a motor vehicle accident, distracted driver is an avoidable cause of morbidity and mortality.

If it took no attention to drive, then perhaps brushing your hair, changing the radio channel, talking on the phone and picking up a phone to text, might not be a big deal. But considering the several ton missile most cars are and the amount of erratic driving that occurs, safety means unplugging and expecting crazy driving, so that you don't end up in an accident or worse.

The national site distraction.gov has a number of powerful stats and even more powerful videos from across the country that brings home the message about distracted driving. One that I found very interesting was a young woman from NJ whose friend was killed by a distracted driver and who admitted that she needed a reminder to not be distracted (so she put a picture of her dead friend on her dashboard)
Here's one story - Ashley age 16

How can you prevent distracted driving?1. Stow your phone in an inaccessible place (purse, glove compartment.)
2. Turn your ringer off until you have arrived.
3. Consider if you are tired or having difficulty concentrating and pay extra attention while driving. (phone off, tunes off)
4. Anticipate that other drivers will be distracted. Is that driver weaving over a line while driving? Might be alcohol but more likely is texting!
5. Anticipate pedestrians texting and being unaware to sound (with ear buds) as they cross the street.
6. Anticipate bicyclists are equally distracted.
7. Help friends and family eliminate distractions. For example, have messages that signal friends and family that you have to concentrate on driving ('have to go now, traffic is tough.")



CLINICIAN NOTE: Due the prevalence of this problem, clinicians should screen all patients who come to them with injury (pedestrian, motor vehicle, etc.) and ask if they were texting or listening to music (with ear buds) when the injury happened.
In Philadelphia in 2009, a talented young school teacher was killed while running in Fairmount Park because a huge branch (30 feet) fell from a tree that was 50 feet or the equivalent to five stories.
Since she could not hear due to loud music and ear buds, she did not hear it snap and fall. The branch struck her, broke her neck and severely injured her head and limbs. 


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