Distracted driving continues to be a significant trauma prevention issue involving negative alterations in visual, manual and cognitive attention while behind the wheel. Distracted driving behaviors can include texting, using a cell or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a GPS, watching videos or adjusting music players. According to the Distraction.gov website, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes (MVC) involving distracted driving. Every month in the USA over 169,000 billion text messages are sent. Among American drivers between the ages of 18-64, 69% talk on the phone while driving while 31% read or send text messages or emails (CDC, 2014). One quarter of teens admit to texting every time they drive while 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit to extended multi-text conversations while driving (UMTRI, 2013). The number of drivers text messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices has increased from 1.7% in 2013 to 2.2% in 2014. (NHTSA, 2014). Imagine that every text written requires approximately 5 seconds with your eyes off the road. That is equivalent to driving 55 mph across a football field while blindfolded (UTTI, 2009).
Of 2000 MVC studied, distracted driving was responsible for over 60%. The most common distractors were talking to passengers, texting or cell/smartphone use (AAA, 2014). The visual-manual subtasks of dialing, texting or reaching for the device whether it be with a hand-held or other portable device increased the risk of crash three times over (VTTI, 2013). Multiple studies have demonstrated that the use of a “hands free” device does not decrease the risk of crash. Federal estimates suggest distracted driving contributed to 16% of all fatal crashes leading to 5,000 deaths per year (AAA, 2014).
As a group of pediatric health care providers we are charged with educating children and parents about trauma prevention. The challenges related to distracted driving are escalating at an alarming rate, and the consequences are deadly. Smartphone ownership was 52% in 2011, and in 2014 was up to 80% (State Farm Insurance, 2014). As part of the annual National Distracted Driving Awareness month, the APSNA Trauma Special Interest Group (SIG) took this growing challenge to heart. On April 6, 2016, 11 hospitals across the country joined forces to participate in the APSNA Second Annual Distracted Driving Awareness event. Participating institutions included: Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children/Nemours Wilmington, DE; Johns Hopkins Hospital Baltimore, MD; Brenner Children’s/Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Hospital Winston Salem, NC; Duke University Hospital Durham, NC; University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospital Chapel Hill, NC; Wolfson Children’s Hospital Jacksonville, FL; University of Florida (UF) Health Jacksonville, FL; UC Davis Medical Center Sacramento, CA; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA; St. Louis Children’s Hospital St. Louis, MO; Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, IL All 11 Maryland trauma centers, supported by the Maryland Trauma Network. This is a 100% increase over the centers that participated in 2015 (5).
The Trauma SIG started this initiative with monthly collaborative phone calls to partner with nursing and injury prevention colleagues at any interested hospital. A working group from 11 hospital was quickly formed. Next, a Special Interest Group Special Project proposal was submitted to the APSNA Board of Directors. The SIG was awarded monies to provide handouts to participants as a “take away” message to every participant as a reminder to prevent distracted driving.
Vendors who partnered with APSNA representatives to get the message out were AT&T, AAA, Safe Kids, Toyota, Allstate Insurance Company. Local and State specific highway safety commissions and highway patrol officers also joined the efforts at these important events.
Unique interventions were provided at each center. The utilization of altered vision goggles and driving simulators provided an interactive, “hands-on” opportunity for participants to feel, first hand, the dangers of distracted driving. Pledge stations where participants could put a signature to their verbal commitment to stop texting while driving were provided. One center, reaching out to a local high school impacted students with a “Trauma Jeopardy” game where they could increase their knowledge of the dangers while attaining prizes. Two centers welcomed mothers’ who last their sons to distracted driving (texting with her at the time of the crash). Their stories held students and other participants in rapt attention while they recounted their tragic stories. Another center partnered with their child life department to have a poster contest, where participants could vote on the best posted and receive prizes.
In some centers, local media support was evident by news and audio spots highlighting APSNA members at the helm of this trauma prevention effort. How exciting to see our colleagues spreading the news to prevent distracted driving while giving APSNA a shout out too!
The Trauma SIG is confident that the 2016 Distracted Driving Awareness Day was another success! Many participants of various ages were confronted with the realities that if they choose to utilize distracted driving behaviors the consequences are real. We look forward to even greater participation for the Third Annual Distracted Driving Awareness event in April, 2017. Please consider joining the Trauma SIG group, collaborate with APSNA colleagues and be part of a life-changing event next year.