As doctors it’s important to know as much about our patients as we can. Understanding our patients’ lifestyle choices and habits is a big part of this. That’s why appointments often begin with a series of questions; we ask about things like consumption of alcohol, tobacco use, and safety measures (such as whether seat belts are worn in the car or protective equipment is worn for biking or inline skating.)
The more we know about our patients’ lifestyle choices, the more we can advise them on good habits, and open the door for discussions on better ways to prevent future illness or injury.
Distracted driving kills. There’s no debating that. In fact, those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash. As our culture and technology change, perhaps we need to add a conversation around the dangers of texting and driving to our list of questions – especially when we talk to pediatric populations, such as teens.
I shared my personal commitment not to text and drive in my last blog post with a request to my readers to do the same. Now, I’d like to propose that we join together to raise awareness of this to the next level.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Start the conversation
Whether at your practice, at the dinner table, or on the way to school, it’s good to address the appropriate use of texting with those around you. There are advantages to using hands-free technologies in the car. Discussing this with family members and loved ones is very worthwhile. It helps to set expectations around responses; you can express that when they’re driving you won’t be expecting a response to your text and vice versa.
- Be a source of information
Have resources available to encourage the dialogue, especially among teenagers who may not discuss this topic with friends. The teenagers I know text faster than I can run! Encouraging them to respect if a friend is driving is important. As part of the “It Can Wait” campaign, there are pledges, bumper stickers, and pamphlets available to help to spread the message. One tool that I personally find very moving is this 10 minute documentary that tells the story of lives destroyed by a single text.
- Encourage others
If you’re talking to an active student or teacher who’s passionate about spreading this message, encourage them to take a toolkit to their schools.
- Reduce temptation
The free AT&T Drive Mode app discourages texting while driving. It can be set up to automatically send a customizable reply to incoming messages when the vehicle starts moving 25 mph, letting them know you’re on the road.
- Lead by example
This is the most important thing you can do. Teens report their parents text while driving at similar rates as themselves (about 41 percent admit parents text while driving), but 77 percent of teens agree that adults text “all the time.” Texting while driving is not just a teen issue. Talk to adult family and friends too, and remind them this applies to emails as well.