Taking risks behind the wheel can have fatal results


In 2011, an average of two people were killed each day — and one person was injured every 11 minutes — in a motor-vehicle crash in Arizona.

Besides the human suffering, the financial toll is staggering: nearly $2.9 billion in economic losses, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s 2011 “Motor Vehicle Crash Facts” report.

As a trauma surgeon, I see the devastating impact of unsafe driving every day. The sad thing is that much of the injury and death could be prevented if drivers simply altered their behavior. While seat belts have proven to be a very effective way to decrease death and injury, technological advances and underage drinking have significantly contributed to the increase in crashes resulting from distracted driving.

The epidemic of traumatic injuries in Arizona and across the nation is an enormous public health concern. It also is a major threat to our youth, not just in lives lost but in disability and expense. Unlike heart disease and cancers that predominantly affect older individuals, trauma is a disease that most affects persons in their second and third decade of life. The result is many years of life lost.

The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma Injury Control and Violence Prevention Committee will be reaching out to teen drivers Tuesday at Thunderbird Adventist Academy. Trauma surgeons from EAST will collaborate with representatives from Maricopa Medical Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center, local law enforcement, the National Transportation Safety Board, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Howard University Injury Prevention and Alcohol Research Center for a program that provides an opportunity for students to learn the hazards of distracted driving due to texting and alcohol use.

Nationally, 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. While distractions are dangerous to drivers at any age, this age group is particularly at risk because they are a generation who has grown up in an age of multitasking but also lack significant driving experience.

We were all daring teens once, but as parents and communities, we need to send a clear message that driving is not a place for taking risks. EAST’s goal for this outreach activity at Thunderbird Academy is to share the truth with teens about the risks involved with driving — without condescension. If changes in behavior that result from their experience save one life — or prevent one crash — the effort will be well worth the time spent.

Jeffrey P. Salomone is the trauma medical director at Maricopa Medical Center and president of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma.


Courtesy of azcentral.com


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