2018 – Your Year to Make a Difference
Every year at this time thousands of individuals make New Year’s resolutions to improve their lives and be a better person. Whether it is to lose weight, stop smoking or exercise more, we are setting goals to improve our lives. Yet, many people will ignore making the easiest life-saving changes for one of the most dangerous activities we will do every day: Driving on our roads.
The Time Has Come
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things:” Of drunk and drugged and distracted driving; of drowsy driving and safety belts—and why death and destruction are common sights on our roads and whether you can bring about change in this new year. In the poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll, the Walrus spoke of a number of nonsense items, such as shoes, ships, sealing wax and flying pigs. But now in 2018, the time has come to talk of serious topics, all of which could easily impact you in your life.
A Global Epidemic
Did you know that around the world road traffic crashes are a major cause of death among all age groups and the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 years? Globally approximately 1.3 million people die every year on the world’s roads and between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries.
Did you know that over 90% of highway crashes can be tied to human choice or error?  What can be more important than to commit to be a safer driver on our roads, the kind of commitment that can save your life and the lives of your family and friends. When a person makes the choice to drink and then drive, or doesn’t get sufficient sleep before driving, or checks a text message while driving, they are inviting a traffic crash. In 2016 there were 37,461 fatalities on U.S. roadways, with 10,497 from impaired driving and 3,450 because of distracted driving. This doesn’t include the tens of thousands that were injured because of these activities. It is estimated that drowsy driving has resulted in over 6,400 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
New Year Resolutions
The wonderful thing about all of this is that these changes can be fairly straightforward and easy to do. The hard part is making the commitment and staying with it. Here are some New Year’s resolutions I hope you will make and keep throughout the year. (They are not listed in terms of importance as each one can make a difference.)
- Never drink alcohol and then drive. Even one drink can start to affect your abilities to drive safely.
- Don’t use other drugs and then drive. This can include many prescription medications. Some prescriptions even include the instruction to avoid driving or using heavy machinery after use. A car or pickup truck is a heavy machine!
- Always wear a seat belt, no matter where you are sitting in a vehicle. It can reduce fatal and non-fatal injuries for front seat occupants by 45-50% and by 25-75% for those in the rear.
- Don’t use a phone (“hands-free” or not) while driving. Hands-free or not, the mind is distracted and thus your ability to be safe is reduced.
- Don’t speed. Speeding is one of the main contributing causes of death and injury. As the average speed increases, so too does the likelihood of having a road crash.
- Always wear a good-quality helmet when riding a motorcycle. A helmet can reduce the risk of death by 40% and severe injury by 70%.
- Always use proper child restraints, including child safety seats and booster seats.
- Always get sufficient sleep before driving. Your age will help determine what is a good quality night of sleep. For teens, somewhere between 8 and 10 hours are needed, with adults needing 7-8 hours.
It is Up to You
None of these potential resolutions are difficult, whether it is “click it” (safety belts), or not drinking and driving or putting a cell phone away while driving; these are all steps that we can take every day of the year. These are all steps that can provide a safer year for you and for me. With 90% of all crashes caused by human error, imagine the number of lives we can save and the reduction of serious injuries that would result by all of us being consciously aware of our actions and changing our behavior. What do you say? Are you ready for these life saving New Year’s resolutions? 2018 can be your year to be a safer person; it is up to you.
 10 Facts on Global Road Safety, World Health Organization, obtained at: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/roadsafety/en/
 Human Errors Drive Growing Death Toll In Auto Crashes, National Public Radio, October 20, 2016. Obtained at: https://www.npr.org/2016/10/20/498406570/tech-human-errors-drive-growing-death-toll-in-auto-crashes
 National Sleep Foundation, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, obtained at: http://drowsydriving.org/2017/11/drowsy-driving-prevention-week-november-5-12-2017/
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