Distracted driving is a growing – and dangerous – recurring event in the United States. Any activity from talking on a cell phone, looking at a GPS system, to eating or drinking while driving is a distraction and can endanger the driver, passengers, and bystanders. Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
In 2013, around 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver, with more than 3,100 people being killed. A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. “As a physician, I’ve seen the effects of distracted driving first-hand, including several orthopedic, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital, stating that more than half of traumatic brain injuries are caused by automobile accidents.
“A brain injury occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head.” In a vehicle accident, this can occur when an airbag deploys or a person hits the windshield or steering wheel. All brain injuries are serious and can affect a person’s cognitive or physical abilities. They also can result in behavioral or emotional impairments as well.” A person who suffers a significant brain injury most likely will require critical care as well as rehabilitation to relearn basic skills, such as walking, talking or eating. “Our goal in helping these types of patients is to address the acute medical issues and improve an individual’s abilities to perform daily activities,” Osuji says, “It can be a long process that requires the specialized skills of a multidisciplinary medical team. And, while I’m glad that I’m part of a team at MSH that can help in the long-term recovery of these types of patients, I would rather see these types of injuries being prevented.” “It’s time to stop the epidemic of distracted driving,” Dr. Osuji says, “the simplest and most effective way to do this is to turn off your cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. Pay attention to the road instead. Let’s all be responsible drivers, and let’s save lives together.”