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Injuries While on Text Message Autopilot.

August 10, 2008

Matthew Vasey, MD





To quote Dr. Matthew Lewin an emergency physician from San Francisco "we saw a woman in her twenties step off the curb and get struck square by a pickup truck ... you could tell she saw the truck at the last moment because her cell phone was dropped right where she was struck just off the curb, and she was thrown about 20 or 30 feet ... I was amazed to hear she survived all the way to trauma center but died [in] the ER." (1) We are all guilty of it, putting our body on autopilot while text messaging. The American College of Emergency Physicians have taken initiative in attempting to inform the public about some of the dangers associated with text messaging. Aside from the tragic and fatal stories, Dr. James Adams from Chicago says "People are texting and they trip and fall on their faces - usually people in their 20's. We see a lot of face, chin, mouth [and] eye injuries from falls." (1) The health implications from not paying attention while text messaging are real and most importantly, one hundred percent preventable.

Some studies have come up with approximately 30 percent of teens admitting to text messaging while driving. (2) NBC30.com actually put together a safe course with the help of a certified driving school in a closed parking lot and you guessed it, navigational abilities were compromised when playing around with a cell phone. (2) There is legislation in the works in some areas invoking mandatory suspension of driver's licenses for teenagers using cell phones while driving.

No matter how skilled the paramedics are at cutting your car open to get you, the emergency doctor is at intubating you to keep your airway open, stabilizing your condition and figuring out how much stuff you have damaged, the neurosurgeon is at drilling through your skull and treating ruptured vessels in your head, the trauma surgeon is at cutting your abdomen and chest wide open to fix your tearing aorta, bleeding liver and removing your ruptured spleen, the ICU doctor is at meticulously managing your care to keep you alive, the orthopaedic surgeon is at piecing back together your shattered legs, pelvis and arms with their hammers, screws, plates and rods, the plastic surgeon is at putting your face back together, the PMNR doctors are at rehabilitating you after your car accident that resulted from distractions while "multi-tasking" and that's if you even survive long enough to get to the hospital ... All of their skilled abilities can be transcended by simply convincing you to please, just hold off a few minutes before you type and send that text message while driving. Believe me, not one patient thought it was going to happen to them and it's very sad to tell families something like this has happened. Unfortunately, this kind of stuff happens with alarming frequency. Most injuries from serious car accidents are out of your control, but there are a few things can be controlled and this is one them. Please don't text message while you drive.

References:
1. American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation. Text messaging: emergency physicians express safety concerns as kids go back to school. http://www.acepfoundation.org/YourHealth/InjuryPrevention/Default.aspx?id=1240
2. NBC30.com. NBC 30 tests the dangers of text messaging while driving. http://www.nbc30.com/news/15269911/detail.html February 13, 2008.
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