Right now as you read this, there are approximately 660,000 drivers using cell phones or electronic devices while driving. This staggering statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates a growing trend and problem: too many of us are not focused on the road. In fact, distracted-driving accidents claimed more than 3,000 lives last year. Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 42 percent of spinal cord traumas, including whiplash.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. And the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has partnered with the Orthopedic Trauma Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to create Decide to Drive (www.decidetodrive.org), a campaign to bring awareness to the prevalence and consequences of distracted driving accidents, encouraging drivers to make a conscious decision to focus more on driving each time they get behind the wheel.
Knowing the common distractions for drivers – cell phones and texting, eating, and interacting with passengers – is the best way to recognize your own dangerous driving behaviors so you’re aware of how your specific distractions might be impairing your driving ability and potentially putting your life, or someone else’s at risk. I encourage you to read through this so that each time you put your key in the ignition, you’ll remember to make conscious decisions to drive responsibly above all else.
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
1. Before you start your car:
a. Put on any accessories you may need, such as sunglasses or BluetoothTM ear pieces;
b. Adjust seats, head rests, vehicle controls and mirrors;
c. Fasten your seat belt;
d. Pre-load CDs or mp3 playlists and adjust volume level so your music does not mask the sounds of emergency sirens; and
e. Enter an address in the navigation system before you depart or review maps and written directions before you drive.
2. Do not eat or drink while driving.
3. Keep your eyes on the road.
4. Remember that driving is not the time to apply makeup, groom, polish your nails, or change clothing.
5. Stop your vehicle in a safe area if something or someone needs your attention, such as retrieving items, having an involved discussion, reading, or disciplining a child.
As the Director of Spine Trauma at the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, CA, I’ve all too often seen the devastating injuries caused by car accidents. And while my primary area of interest involves minimally invasive surgical techniques for spinal trauma and other conditions, like the public service announcements you’ll see and hear this month, I’d much rather help keep your spine strong than have to put it back together. Please be safe while driving and as a passenger, encourage other drivers to do the same.
For more information and resources, visit decidetodrive.org.