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Vanderbilt Trauma nurses initiate pledge against distracted driving

May 16, 2012

Nurses at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Level-1 Trauma Center are taking a pledge to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving. These caregivers, who treat hundreds of seriously injured patients each year due to distracted driving, want to see an end to behind-the-wheel activities taking attention away from the road.

As part of National Trauma Awareness Month, recognized each May, Vanderbilt Trauma nurses are leading a campaign titled “Decide to Drive; Stay Alive,” an initiative of the Society of Trauma Nurses. Pledge cards are being circulated throughout the hospital, which encourage people to avoid all distractions while driving a vehicle and spread the message to family and friends.

“We have had so many patients that have had accidents from distractions, and in some cases it has really changed their lives,” said Trauma nurse Sondra Blount, R.N., B.S.N. “We are asking everyone to do their best to stop as many distractions in their vehicles as possible.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 people are injured every day in crashes that involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road, such as text messaging, talking on the phone, eating or putting on makeup. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines three types of distraction: visual – taking your eyes off the road; manual – taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing.

Shawn Coltharp, mother of a former Vanderbilt patient who survived a near-fatal crash due to texting while driving, says distracted driving is this generation’s chronic disease.

“Hillary lived a distracted driver’s life, always grabbing for CDs, putting on makeup, and yes, texting,” Coltharp said about her daughter, who suffered a traumatic brain injury from her 2007 accident and spent six weeks in Vanderbilt’s Trauma Unit.

Although the accident was nearly five years ago, Coltharp says her daughter still goes to therapy daily and will feel the consequences of her decision to text and drive for the rest of her life.

Coltharp regularly volunteers with the Trauma Survivors Network, which helps patients and families cope with traumatic injuries during their hospital stay and after.

“This is our heart’s desire to spread the word and hopefully save a life,” Coltharp said.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced this week that Tennessee roadway fatalities are up 13 percent from this same time last year, with the current death toll at 331 as of May 7.

“We see patients every day die from [automobile accidents], so let's make our communities safer, let's make the Tennessee roadways safer and let's stop [distracted driving] for good," Blount said.

More information on the “Decide to Drive; Stay Alive” campaign is available through the Society of Trauma Nurses.

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Jennifer Wetzel
Senior Information Officer
News and Communications
Phone: 615-322-4747

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