Enjoy your summer but choose to play it safe.
As a member of the trauma team at Spartanburg Medical Center, my phone vibrates throughout the night with notifications of trauma patients being rushed to our emergency center. Way too many of these traumatic injuries are related to impaired driving.
Many people think impaired driving means driving under the influence of alcohol, and although this definition is partly true, it's incomplete.
Impaired driving includes anything that creates a dangerous situation while operating a vehicle and can include:
- Legal or illegal drugs
- Distractions, such as using a cell phones
- A medical condition that affects your driving
Nationwide, alcohol-impaired driving is the cause of nearly 1/3 of traffic deaths. However, those numbers only account for fatalities caused by someone under the influence of alcohol. They do not account for traffic deaths caused by the influence of legal or illegal drugs. Nor do they include deaths caused by distractions such as texting, putting on makeup, eating, falling asleep at the wheel or entertaining a child in the back seat.
The warm summer months bring all of us many opportunities for fun, such as parties, festivals, cookouts, and travel. However, all it takes is one irresponsible decision to change your life, or someone else's life, forever.
What can you do to decrease your chances of becoming a statistic?
- First and foremost, never get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you are impaired in any way.
- Never get into a vehicle with a driver who is impaired.
- Be a defensive driver. Do not assume other drivers are going to obey the rules of the road.
- Always wear your seat belt and have safety devices armed, such as airbags.
- Stay focused on the road and eliminate all distractions (phones).
- If you get sleepy while driving, ask someone else to drive, or pull over somewhere safe where you can lock your doors and take a quick nap.
- If you are impaired in any way, use ridesharing, a taxi or ask a friend or family member for a ride.
- If impaired, stay the night with friends or family.
Your ultimate goal is to make it safely to your destination. Your family or friends may not like it if you are late or if they need to come and get you, but they would much rather see you around the dinner table than on the coroner’s table. So make responsible decisions, and be trauma-free.
T.J. Mack is the Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator for Spartanburg Medical Center.