Threats to our health appear at every turn these days. Some risks we can
control. Others we cannot.
One preventable health risk still manages to indiscriminately kill thousands
of people in the U.S. each year.
It’s trauma caused by Motor Vehicle Crashes (MVCs).
A look at crash statistics proves this point. The National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 37,000 people died
in 2017 from MVCs. In Louisiana alone, 757 people died as a result of
an MVC in 2016, and the number increased to 792 in 2017. Last year, we
treated 309 patients for MVC-related injuries at
North Oaks Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center. Twenty of the 309 died.
On average, someone in our state is killed every twelve hours because of
an MVC, and approximately every seven minutes someone is injured seriously
enough to warrant a hospital visitation. In fact, by the time you finish
reading this, there will be at least one person transported to a hospital
or trauma center due to an MVC.
As to cause, impairment and distraction are huge factors. The number of
patients arriving at hospitals with either alcohol or an illegal substance
in their system is astounding. Although this is a problem nationally,
it is unusually prevalent in the South. But make no mistake. Drinking
and driving is an irresponsible act that should never be tolerated. It
Eliminate your risk of becoming an MVC victim by having a plan to get you
home safely when you drink, such as a designated driver.
Like alcohol, some prescription medications can impair your ability to
drive safely. Prescription medications labeled with warnings against operating
heavy machinery while taking the medicine should be taken seriously. (People
often think of tractors or bulldozers as heavy machinery, but cars, trucks
and all-terrain vehicles are considered heavy machinery too.)
While more people are becoming aware of the problem of distracted driving,
it remains a growing danger. In my own experience, I see people engaged
in distracted driving every day on my commute back and forth to work –
texting, talking on phones, eating, putting on makeup, shuffling music
playlists. Anything that takes your focus off the road is a
distraction that can lead to an MVC with tragic consequences.
So parents, grandparents, guardians, please talk to your children about
the dangers of driving under the influence and distracted driving. Set
a good example for them. Without fail, please buckle up, focus on the
road and never drive impaired.
One way to start the conversation is to make plans to attend
North Oaks 4th Annual Play It Safe event on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Cate Square in Historic
Downtown Hammond. This free, interactive safety event is designed to increase
safety awareness through education, demonstrations and activities for
families with children, ages 12 and under. Cate Square will be divided
into three “safety zones” that families can explore. The zones
represent the areas where injuries are most likely to occur – the
home, motorized vehicles (cars and ATVs) and sports/outdoors.
I love my job, but what I would love even more is to have to find a new
line of work because there just aren’t enough traumas in need of
care anymore. Unfortunately, the stark reality is that I fear I can expect
a long career as part of a team fighting to save the lives of victims
of preventable traumas rushed to our care.
Make no mistake. MVCs are preventable. And for this reason, I will keep
working to spread awareness about the dangers of impaired and distracted
driving. If my efforts can save one person and spare his or her family
the heartache of living without their loved one, then it’s worth it.