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Thursday, June 10, 2010

That message can wait....

I wouldn't be a very responsible healthcare blogger if I didn't talk about something that just made the New England Journal of Medicine (kind of a big deal in the medical world), that I never really thought about bringing up with patients before: texting while driving.

PCP's are now giving information to their patients regarding the use of cell phones while driving ,as they would regarding smoking cessation, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.  Apparently, studies have shown that people who are texting are more impaired as drunk drivers, due to their lack of attention to the road, and are 20x more likely to crash than those who are paying attention to the road ahead.  Texting while driving is also on par with sleep deprivation.  It is totally scary to think that people who are not under the influence of drugs/alcohol, can basically drive like they are solely because they are texting.

I remember on my old school phone that I could text like a champ without looking at the phone because I could feel the keys and I really could take on any teenager and give them a run for their money...BUT with the touch screen phones, that isn't the case.  And, with the number of, specifically, Iphones out there, people actually need to look at their screens to type and that takes away from watching the road (approx 400% more time with eyes off the road per one recent study) and diminishes response times to other cars on the road; it can make a teenagers response time that of a 70 year old.

Creepy statistics?  In 2008, during daylight times over 800,000 Americans were texting whilst driving and over 6,000 people were killed in that same year from distracted drivers.  25% of annual car accidents are caused by people talking on their cell phones. People who are texting while driving a re 6 times more likely to get in a care crash than those who are intoxicated!!  And, while this is old data, I found it very interesting; in 2002 the Harvard Center for risk Analysis found that 2,600 people die each year as a result of using cell phones while driving and 330,000 are injured. Also, according to one survey, 85% of people surveyed agreed that texting/talking while driving was dangerous, yet of those people, 80% stated that they still did it anyway.  Hmmm, so we know it's dangerous, but we still do it.....

I must say, on a recent cross country road trip with a dear friend, we watched and saw so many people swerving in/out of lanes, and you would swear they were drunk, but as you passed them saw that they were chatting on their phones, texting, putting on makeup (my personal favorite at 80 MPH), and other drivers were literally speeding past at any chance just to get away from them.  Really watch the road and see who is texting and chatting; we blame teenagers all the time, but I think that I see more adults talking, texting, working on a COMPUTER, putting on makeup, etc than I do teenagers.  So, maybe we should all practice what we preach and use hands free devices or just do what we did in the old days and sit back, listen to some tunes, and get where we are going safely...make the phone calls when you get to your destination!

I know that I will encourage patients, family, friends to drop the phone and pay attention to driving, and I hope that these statistics encourage you all to do the same, it may save a life :)

Yours in Good Health

B

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