Expert Health Articles

Safe Driving: Seatbelts, Alcohol and Distracted Driving

Dr. Douglas YoderDr. Douglas Yoder

Blanchard Valley Surgical Specialists

A recent Courier article reported a doubling of traffic fatalities in Hancock County for 2016. While EMS and law enforcement personnel witness tragic events from fender-benders to life-threatening or fatal injuries, thankfully over the past three decades nationwide statistics point toward a significant decrease in traffic-related deaths. Much of this can be attributed to automotive and highway safety improvements such as seat belts, air bags, car seats and motorcycle helmets. Sadly enough, even with overwhelming science and statistics that seatbelts save lives by keeping the occupants in a vehicle at the time of an accident and avoiding ejection, some people still dispute the importance of these safety devices. It is true that in specific instances, having the ability to exit a vehicle quickly is paramount, but these accidents are very uncommon. The statistics are very clear - wearing a seatbelt is a life-saving endeavor. 

Alcohol was responsible for more than 10,000 traffic-related deaths in 2015 according to the National Traffic and Highway Administration (NHTSA). Law enforcement educational campaigns like "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving" focus on young drivers who make up a tragic majority of accident victims. The answer to this problem is simple: don't drink and drive, appoint a designated driver, call for a ride home and just don't get behind the wheel. 

The issue of distracted drivers has gained public attention over the last 10 years. Especially with the advent of smart phones, drivers have more distractions than ever. Many of us have seen drivers texting while driving despite the fact that it takes our eyes off of the road for prolonged periods of time and is illegal in the state of Ohio. The solution: wait to text until you've reached your destination. 

A recent study has described fatigue and drowsiness as a risk factor for traffic accidents as well. When we're tired our reaction times slow, and we make poor decisions. A 2016 study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) revealed some very startling facts: more than 40 percent of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel and more than 30 percent of those surveyed had done so in the past month. As is the case for drunk driving and distracted driving, young people are most likely to drive while drowsy. The remedy for this problem is simple as well, drive while rested, pull over to rest if tired, and according to AAA, get at least six hours of sleep prior to a long drive.

There you have it, some of the most frequent causes of traffic accidents and fatalities with some simple solutions. Don't ignore the facts: driving while sleepy or poorly rested is short-sighted, texting and driving is dangerous, drinking alcohol and driving puts everyone on the road at risk, and wearing your seat belt can save your life. Thinking otherwise ignores the overwhelming statistics and puts yourself and everyone else in your vehicle and on the road at risk.