It is sad to note that John Forbes Nash Jr., the brilliant Princeton University mathematician whose life story was the subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed with his wife Alicia this past weekend in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. ‘Tis not our task to preach but to inform. Maybe you think you’ve heard it all before, but let me lay it all out for you so you can truly be an informed consumer. Forewarned is forearmed. There’s a reason you hear so much about drinking or texting and driving, wearing seat belts/helmets and speeding. If there was such a thing as Human Shark Week, the biggest and baddest predator in the trauma world would be motor vehicle crashes.
Motor vehicle collisons are the single leading cause of death among those between ages 5-34 in the US. More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in ERs as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. Let’s lay this out simply and review the risks, the consequences and preventative efforts you should be taking.
Danger is enhanced by various distractions and inadequate protection. The mistake people make is not understanding that much of the danger is outside of your control – other drivers. If you’re impaired or distracted, you can’t respond effectively. I’ve seen it all.
- Drinking while driving – Stop it with the “I can handle my liquor” nonsense. Someone dies every hour from drinking while driving. It’s not just drunk driving, it’s impaired driving. Your senses are altered and ability to respond diminished at any level of alcohol consumption and is incrementally more so with more consumption.
- Texting while driving
- Eating while driving
- Reading while driving
- Doing your hair/shaving/makeup while driving
- Kissing and other sexual activities while driving
- Motorcycle driving/riding without a helmet
- Letting your children drive without a license and/or formal training: it’s all too true. Teens are most at risk for accidents and being impaired/distracted/drunk while driving.
- Letting your children ride in the front of the car
- Not wearing seat belts (the biggest mistake of them all)
I’ve seen nearly every conceivable injury from motor vehicle collisions. It doesn’t take as much effort as you’d think to have a very bad life after a crash. Consider the following possible going head to toe (and yes, the list is abbreviated)…
- Traumatic Brain Injury, including intracranial bleeds, strokes, seizures, concussions, herniation and death…
- Neck Injury, including fractures, strains, pinched nerves, temporary and permanent loss of motion/sensation in your extremities…
- Chest wall bruising, heart and lung bruising, collapsed lungs, stab wounds to the heart and lungs, ruptured heart vessels…
- Abdominal injuries, including contusions to and rupture of the liver, spleen, pancreas, diaphragm and intestines…
- Genital, urinary and pelvic injuries, including the kidneys and multiple fractures…
- Nervous, psychologic and musculoskeletal system injuries, including contusions, life-threatening fractures and dislocations, paralysis, facial disfigurement and other scarring, post-traumatic stress syndrome and long term pain syndromes.
- Seat belt use reduces serious injuries and deaths in crashes by 50%. Air bags provide added protection but are not a substitute for seat belts in a crash.
- Wear a seat belt every time, every trip.
- Seat all kids under 12 in the back seat.
- Seat backseat passengers in the middle (it’s the safest spot in the car)
- Regarding any function on a smartphone, if you can’t be hands free, it can wait. If you must use your hands, pull over.
- Remember designated drivers? Yes, that’s still a thing.
- If you’re on a motorcycle, wear a helmet, every time, every trip.
- Protect your teen. No license, no vehicle. Consider driving school.
Impaired and distracted driving will cause you harm; it’s not an “if it’ll happen” situation, it’s “when it happens.” Please consider the points I’ve mentioned and the lives of passengers/other drivers when deciding how you handle your vehicle. Good luck on the road.
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