distracted drivingSunday, November 20 has been designated by The World Health Organization and the United Nations as the “World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims.” But any day is an opportunity to promote global recognition of the many millions killed or injured in road crashes each year, and their families and communities.

It’s also a chance to pay tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, police and medical professionals – often the unsung heroes – who daily deal with the traumatic aftermath of road death and injury. In Vermont alone, 57 people have died in 2016 from road traffic crashes.

Rather than calling them “accidents,” as if they were unpredictable and therefore unavoidable, these crashes are predictable and thus can be prevented. All of us can take some simple steps to reduce our risk and the risk to our loved ones and others on the road:

  • Wear a seat belt, on every trip, wherever you are seated in a vehicle.
  • Put children in in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way (see Child Car Seat Safety for more information).
  • Don’t drive distracted – this includes hands-free cell phones, because it’s the mental/cognitive distractions, not just the physical ones, that can cause us to lose focus.
  • Don’t drive when impaired – from alcohol, other drugs, or even fatigue.
  • Follow speed limits and other laws and “rules of the road.”
  • Wear a helmet when on a two-wheeler.
  • Wear visible clothing when biking or walking.

Maureen Johnson works in trauma services at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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