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Trauma

Exercising Caution in Vehicles Limits Crashes, Injuries

Exercising Caution in a Vehicle When getting into a vehicle, most people think about where they are headed or what they need to do to get there. Few plan to get into a crash along the way. Even so, every day someone in Southwest Florida is involved in a motor vehicle crash that can have serious consequences.

Physicians and the staff at the Lee Memorial Health System Trauma Center treat the most serious cases. Common crash injuries include foot, ankle and leg injuries; closed-head injuries and chest injuries.

“Certainly, seatbelt usage is critically important,” says orthopedic trauma surgeon, Patrick Leach, M.D. “The frequency and severity of injuries exponentially increases in an unrestrained driver or passenger. In terms of motorcycle riding and helmet use, helmets greatly decrease the chance of significant head trauma, which decreases the death rate. It doesn’t change the severity of the injuries to the remainder of the body. Unfortunately, motorcycle riding remains a risk-taking activity because of the lack of protection from and decreased visibility and awareness of the other drivers on the road.”

Taking precautions is important, with motorcycle helmets and automotive seatbelts helping to save lives, but many people increase their risk when they try to complete other tasks while driving.

“The risks are real and significant when it comes to distracted driving,” Dr. Leach says. “I have seen some very severe injuries that arose out of accidents that are directly related to texting. At an absolute minimum we should resist the temptation to text, no matter how brief, while we’re driving. Defensive, non-distracted driving remains paramount. Given the number of people on the road, it is amazing we don’t have a bigger problem than we do.”

Syndi Bultman, trauma injury prevention and resource manager for Lee Memorial Health System’s Trauma Center, says that everyone needs to pay attention to traffic, no matter where they are on the road.

“Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” she says.

    Other advice:
  • Anticipate what other drivers might do. Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Pedestrians should walk against traffic and bicyclists should drive with traffic.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists should wear bright colors and reflective material when walking in the dark.
  • Look left, right, left and look for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, trucks and cars.
  • Never drink and drive.

Syndi says that crashes are often avoidable, especially if drivers focus solely on their driving. “Everyone needs to pay attention to what is going on around them,” she says. “That means not texting, surfing the web, wearing headphones, putting on makeup, shaving, eating while driving or walking or cycling. Follow the rules of the road.”

Driving within the speed limit and exercising caution is worth the effort, Dr. Leach says. “The lifestyle impact of a traumatic orthopedic injury is significant. At a minimum it usually results in a 3-month disruption in lifestyle and ability to work. This can very easily turn into 18-24 months. Unfortunately, even when the best result available is achieved, patients are often left with permanent limitations and changes to their lifestyle and ability to work as a result of a traumatic orthopedic injury.”

“"Everyone needs to pay attention to what is going on around them,” says Syndi Bultman, trauma injury prevention and resource manager. “That means not texting, surfing the web, wearing headphones, putting on makeup, shaving, eating while driving or walking or cycling. Follow the rules of the road.”

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Patrick B. Leach, M.D.
Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida
2531 Cleveland Avenue, Suite 1
Fort Myers, FL 33901
239-334-7000

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