As part of my health and fitness blog I am presenting a very important but controversial idea to reduce the accidental death rate of all people in the U.S. and the world.
The leading cause of death (greater than 12,000 per year in the U.S.) is unintentional injury. The vast majority of these deaths are transportation deaths, primarily motor vehicle accidents (although a significant number are bicycle or pedestrian related.)
These account for the most frequent cause of death, especially in 15- 19-year-olds. Injuries (non-fatal) harm some 9.2 million children per year in the U.S. While the leading cause of these non-fatal injuries for all children is falls, motor vehicle accidents are one of the top three causes of these injuries. In adults, unintentional injury accounts for the fifth leading cause of death, approximately 122,000 persons.
The group between 19 and 34 years of age has unintentional injury as the number one cause of death. As a person ages, only the “big 4” exceed accidents as the cause of death. The “big 4” include heart disease, cancer, stroke and smoking related lung disease.
Examination of accidents shows that the term “accident” is often a misnomer. Distraction, failure to prepare, equipment failure, unpredictable actions of the “other” party are all ingredients in what becomes labeled as an “accident.” While accidents certainly do occur, there are frequently a number of factors that if they were recognized and heeded ahead of time, would have prevented the incident.
In many cases, we have been conditioned to respond to the ring of cell phone as if it were a life and death matter. Unfortunately, this conditioning has caused many of us to react without considering the consequences of our actions.
If you have been expecting that call from your sister who is going through a divorce, or you have applied for a job and finally received a call from the company, your entire focus becomes centered upon your own world.
You are not aware of the person stepping into the crosswalk, you are not looking ahead to see all of the traffic coming to an abrupt stop and you are not seeing yourself drifting across the centerline as you focus on the screen of your cell phone and the great news about the job you have desperately needed. In a few seconds, none of these things will matter.
In prison you will work in the laundry, you will have eliminated forever the elderly person’s ability to care for their grandchildren and undoubtedly it will be hard to get around to anything without a drivers’ license.
The cost of the ticket is just the beginning. My own cousin's daughter was killed at the age of 16, the result of distraction of the driver due to texting. The response of providing tickets and fines simply is not working.
In my own commute, slightly less than three miles from door to door, I witness no less than five or six drivers blatantly abusing the texting or cell phone “hands free” talking law.
From my observation, most of theses offenders are mature adults who have simply chosen to ignore the law because of expediency. I cannot even imagine the number of young drivers who are far less aware of the dangers of distraction while driving.
Whether your age is 16 or 99, the risks posed by texting or talking on a cell phone while driving are something none of us can afford to ignore. There have been campaigns to reduce drunk driving, texting, etc., including the California effort, "Texting, a $159 ticket. It's just not worth it." I personally see no effect as a result of these measures.
I suggest that all cell phones be treated as the potentially deadly device that they are. Just as guns are relegated to the trunk of the car, and maintained in an unloaded state, I suggest that we keep all cell phones isolated and restrained in the trunk of the car. An open container, a loaded gun or an activated cell phone – they are all weapons of our own destruction. Beyond that, they all will result in irrevocable damage to other people, families, lives and our livelihood.
The use of cell phones could occur only if a hand’s free and voice activated system were to be employed by each and every driver. There are very few, if any, conversations that could not be postponed until the destination is reached or the parties pulled over to achieve a much safer situation before entering into a conversation. I am bringing this discussion into the public to elicit dialogue and to demonstrate that there is a problem to be dealt with. As a physician who previously used to have to pull over and find a "pay phone," I can assure you that there are alternatives.
The number of deaths and mutilations is staggering. The cell phone companies would rather we use their technology anywhere and at anytime, after all when we use, they profit. Their public service announcements are forced upon them. However, if they were to be brought into the equation, as a co-defendant in what are certain to be an explosion of lawsuits, I am certain that their position would change.
Please tell me what you think.
Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cell phone use as the major distraction.
- Younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 may be at highest risk because they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
- World Health Organization - Mobile Phone Use: A Growing Problem of Driver Distraction
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2009. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 2010. Publication no. DOT-HS-811-379. Available from http://www.distraction.gov/ . Accessed June 27, 2011.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. Washington DC: US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2011. Available from: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/. Accessed June 27, 2011.