by Mary Rains
Mille Lacs Health System
It was just a quick call. It was just a picture. It was just one text. It was just a glance. But that “just” is all it takes to cause an accident that can change your life – or someone else’s – forever.
Mille Lacs Health System is reminding people this fall that distracted driving kills. Every day, 11 teens die because they were texting and driving. Over half the road crashes in the US today involve the use of a cell phone, and many of these lead to death or severe injuries. Locally, MLHS Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. Arden Virnig was so disturbed by the number of cases the ER deals with as the result of distracted driving that he requested a campaign to help people become more aware of the risks. “I would love to see you,” notes Virnig, “but not in the Emergency Room because you or someone else was distracted while driving.”
The three main kinds of distracted driving are visual distraction, which is anything that requires the driver to look away from the roadway; manual distraction, which is anything that requires the driver to take their hands off the wheel; and mental distraction, which involves concentrating on something other than driving, such as taking a business call– even hands-free – while driving. Texting is the deadliest distraction of all because it involves all three kinds of distractions.
Experts from the National Safety Council say that safe “hands-free” calling is a myth. In fact, “hands-free” is still a type of distraction, as the mind is not fully engaged with driving.
MLHS’s distracted driving campaign is called Just Drive. A local billboard, information to the Driver’s Ed classes, and social media will help to push the message out to area drivers. On Facebook, “Like” MLHS and then go to the clinic nearest you to pick up a special Just Drive packet. The packet can be for either yourself or someone you know who needs to be reminded how dangerous distracted driving is. Supplies are limited.
The packet includes lots of stats about distracted driving, a pledge sheet, a keyring/Just Drive thumb ring, and a special little pocket called a Cell Slip. The slip was invented and is sold by a company right here in central MN, and when you put your phone into it, it will not pick up a signal to ring or alert you with message sounds. (You’ll get them all when you arrive – safely – at your destination and open the pocket.)
It’s a good thing to give to someone who always is taking “just this one call” or “just this one text.” If they know they’re always tempted when they hear that phone ring or buzz, they can put their cellphone in the pocket and not be lured by that familiar sound. It’s just another tool to get people to keep top-of-mind that any kind of distracted driving is dangerous driving. If you don’t believe it, just ask one of the MLHS EMTs that respond to far too many accidents — some of them fatal— that involve distracted driving.
Put down your phone and “Just Drive.” Don’t take a chance. All it takes is one glance.