It’s Trauma Awareness Month: Driver Distraction Can Be Dangerous

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, a time designated to prevention education. Part of being smart about prevention means understanding when it’s not so smart to use your smartphone.

Each year, trauma accounts for 41 million ER visits and 2 million hospital admissions. With the increasing popularity of smartphones and cellphones has come a rise in the number of trauma injuries caused by drivers who get into trouble while they are distracted by their phones.

The allure of constant connection is hard to resist. During a recent seven-day crackdown on texting while driving, Minnesota police handed out 972 citations to drivers in our state. You may think that you can safely multitask on your phone while driving, but state and national statistics clearly demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving. In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 174 serious injuries and 74 deaths in Minnesota—an increase from our state’s 61 distracted driving fatalities in 2014.

National statistics compiled by the American Trauma Society and the Society of Trauma Nurses reflect the national scope of distracted driving dangers.

  • Sixteen percent of fatal crashes and 20 percent of crash injuries in 2009 involved distracted driving.
  • Drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to injure themselves in serious crashes.
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving 55 mph for the length of a football field while blindfolded.
  • Using a cellphone while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, delays driver reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08.
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured.
  • Teen drivers are particularly at risk; 16 percent of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under the age of 20.

At Summit Orthopedics, our physicians and our OrthoQUICK walk-in bone and joint injury clinics in Woodbury, Eagan, and Vadnais Heights are ready to help when you are injured, but we are also here to help you avoid distracted driving injuries by knowing and following the law. In Minnesota, here’s what you need to know about cellphone use in your car:

  • It is illegal for drivers of all ages to compose, read, or send electronic messages or access the Internet on a wireless device when the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic.
  • It is also illegal for drivers to perform these activities while stopped in traffic or at a light.
  • This prohibition does not apply to devices that are permanently affixed to the vehicle or global positioning or navigation systems.
  • It is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cellphone, whether hand-held or hands-free—except to call 911 in an emergency.

When you practice safe driving habits and teach these habits to your children, you help to keep your family—and all of us—safer on the road.

 

 

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