As the old year wanes and people look to 2018, many New Year’s resolutions will focus on the tried and true: weight loss, exercise, and stress reduction. But have you ever thought about adding driving safety as a health goal? With sobering statistics from the National Safety Council (NSC), safe driving should be on everyone’s New Year’s resolution list.
According to NSC estimates, as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, a six percent rise from 2015, and a 14 percent increase in deaths since 2014. That is the biggest two-year jump in more than five decades. It also means that 2016 was the deadliest year on U.S. roads since 2007.
Crashes can result in the very real loss of human life. And there are millions more who are seriously injured—an estimated 4.6 million in 2016 according to NSC. In addition to affecting the health and well-being of individuals, the financial cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2016 was approximately $432 billion. That includes losses in wages and productivity, medical expenses, property damage, employer costs, and administrative expenses.
At this time of year, driving safety should be especially high among your priorities. Driving while intoxicated is one concern. Folks who are celebrating the holidays or just out to have a good time any time of the year should remember to be responsible. If you choose to drink, always have a designated driver, call a cab, or use a ride service. Please don’t let such a happy time of year become a time of tragedy. A poor decision can potentially kill or severely injure you, a loved one, or some other innocent person.
Another major concern is distracted driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day in the U.S. approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
There are three main types of distraction. Visual distraction is when you take your eyes off the road. Manual distraction is when you take your hands off the wheel to do some other activity. Cognitive distraction is when you take your mind off driving or you are lost in thought about something else.
Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. A few examples of distracted driving include sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, or eating while driving. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 miles per hour.
So as the new year approaches, while you are focused on losing weight or improving your health in other ways, consider pledging to be a safer driver as well. The life you save may be your own or that of someone you love.
Dave Groves, RN, MSN, CCRN, is the Trauma Outreach Coordinator for Cooper University Health Care. To learn more about our programs, click here.