April 26, 2004
Let's start with the facts:
"A total of 41,821
people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2000. Another
3.2 million people were injured.... Persons 16 to 20 years old had
the highest fatality and injury rates per 100,000 population...."
In 2002, 42,815 people
were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Of those fatalities, 41% were
in Alcohol-Related Crashes--the other 59% were in crashes where
the highest Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was zero.
Thousands lost their lives
because people chose to drink and drive.
Thousands more lost their lives for other reasons.
"TRENTON, N.J. - New
Jersey has become the first state in the nation to adopt a law against
driving while drowsy. Under Maggie's Law, prosecutors can charge
a driver with vehicular homicide if there is evidence an accident
involving a fatality was caused by sleepiness. The law provides
for punishments of up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine....
The law is named for a 20-year-old college student killed six years
ago by a van driver who admitted he hadnt slept in 30 hours....
While New Jersey is the first state to specifically list going without
sleep as a crime, similar bills are pending in New York and have
been discussed by lawmakers in Washington state.... A half-a-dozen
years ago, a Virginia judge sentenced a driver to five years in
prison because he fell asleep on his morning commute, killing two
Whether driving while sleep
deprived, or driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs,
impaired driving of any sort is dangerous. As one might expect,
these hazards seem to be more of an issue at night. More people
are tired--and more people have been drinking.
"Midnight to 3 a.m.
on Saturdays and Sundays proved to be the deadliest 3-hour periods
throughout 2000, with 1,271 and 1,218 fatal crashes, respectively....
Forty percent of fatal crashes involved alcohol. For fatal crashes
occurring from midnight to 3 a.m., 77 percent involved
Wide awake in the middle
of the day, there are still distractions. Night or day, how often
do you travel in car packed with friends? The more people there
are in the car, the more likely it is to crash.
"This is especially
true for the most inexperienced drivers (16- and 17-year-olds).
In 1999, 16- and 17-year-old teens driving with no passengers were
involved in 1.6 accidents per 10,000 trips, yet the rate rises to
2.3 accidents with one passenger, 3.3 accidents with two passengers,
and sharply rises to 6.3 accidents with three or more passengers
in the car. This latter number is three times greater than
the accident rate per 10,000 trips for 18- and 19-year-old teens
driving with three or more passengers (2.1)."
So you haven't been drinking,
it's the middle of the day, and you are all alone in the car. What
could possilby distract you (besides the radio and the cell phone)?
How about lunch?
Just last Friday:
"HICKORY, N.C. -- A Georgia man credits a highway crash that
totaled his truck with saving his life. Eddie May Jr. began choking
on a piece of food about noon Friday as he was driving east on Interstate
40 near Hickory, said Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Abernathy. May
told authorities he started getting dizzy, then blacked out. His
Ford F-350 crossed the median and grazed a westbound tractor-trailer,
Abernathy said, and the force of the impact dislodged the food from
May's throat.... May suffered minor injuries and will be charged
with careless and reckless driving and failure to wear a seat belt....
The careless and reckless charge stems from May's decision to eat
while driving, Abernathy said."
It's prom season, and graduation
is coming soon--celebrations that involve teens in cars with lots
of distractions. Even worse than party season for traffic fatalities
is what follows the party season: summer.
"Of the 6,434 youth
(ages 15-20) car crash fatalities in 2000, July saw more deaths
(644) than any other month, followed by June (600), September (590),
and August (587)...."
"New survey results
from Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students
Against Driving Drunk) indicate that teens succumb to more risky
in-vehicle behaviors during the summer months that lead to crashes,
serious injuries and, oftentimes, deaths, than during the school
year. This data sheds light on why motor vehicle crashes remain
the number-one cause of death* among young people in America....
More Driving... Piling-In... Later Nights... Heavy Eyelids... 'This
is a recipe for disaster - young, inexperienced drivers spending
more time behind the wheel, and engaging in the risky driving behaviors
that lead to accidents, serious injuries and worse, deaths,' said
Paul Condrin, Liberty Mutual executive vice president and manager,
Personal Market. 'And, many teen drivers - about one-third according
to our survey - compound the problem by adding drugs and alcohol
to the mix.'"
While the following story
was meant to help students at one high school realize the dangers
of drinking and driving, speed and the lack of a seat belt also
come into the mix. The result was more than some students could
told the 1,000 students at the all-boys school exactly what happened
to her at age 15 when a drunken driver plowed into her father's
car, head-on, going 90 mph. It wasn't a pretty story. 'One of the
teachers caught me before I fell down,' said Brian Joyce, a senior
and member of the Northwest Side school's water polo team, who was
the first to collapse.... After Joyce blacked out, 14 other boys
fainted, some slumping onto the kid sitting next to them.... Belluschi
speculates that her words get through to teens because the crash
happened when she was their age and because it devastated her face
-- something of utmost importance to most teens."
So what did happen to her?
(I am including the following excerpt from the article in case you
would like to share it with your students. This is just a glimpse
into what she said before her talk was cut short by students getting
sick, but even this is quite graphic in spots.)
"Belluschi and her
father were on an Iowa road heading to a teen dance in 1964 when
a drunken driver veered across three lanes of traffic and hit them
dead-on. Belluschi, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was catapulted
through the windshield, shattering part of her skull. She went through
up to her shoulders, then whiplashed backward through the broken
window, slitting her neck, slashing her face, smashing her teeth,
flattening her nose and breaking her leg. Belluschi tells students
how she almost drowned in her own blood, how paramedics used bobby
pins from her hair to close the gushing blood vessels in her neck,
how three people held her down at the hospital as they gave her
a quick tracheotomy without anesthetic. Tiny glass shards were still
coming out of the skin on her forehead months later. She's grateful
for having survived, and the 15 or so surgeries that followed have
done wonders for her face. But she is reminded of the accident every
time she looks in the mirror. 'It's a fine face, but it's not my
face, and I know that clearly,' she says."
So now what? How can we
get past the depressing statistics and overwhelming reality of car
crashes? The situation truly does sound hopeless, until you realize
that there is something that you can do. Many of these crashes were
Questions of the Week:
How can you and your friends take control of this situation and
add some hope? Does providing students with statistics and gruesome
details help to make the roads a safer place? If not, what would
be a better way of getting teens to understand the risks and make
safer choices? What can you do with this information? What can you
do to keep yourself and your friends from being among these statistics?
How does having this information help you better understand the
risks of distracted and/or impaired driving; will it help you explain
those risks to others in a way that will help them make safer decisions?
Included here are the objective and a link to a lesson plan with
for further information. While some of the links provided on the
plan are out of date, I hope that you can still find the content
and ideas useful.
"Students will do the following:
1. Study the potential dangers, risks, and statistics associated
with a variety of road safety issues: impaired driving, not wearing
seat belts, speeding, distracted driving (eating and using cell
phones), and drowsy driving.
2. Develop a public service announcement such as a poster, mock
television or radio commercial, Web site, or brochure about a road
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum