Tips for Summer Travel Season – Arrive Alive, Don’t Text and Drive
In 2020, Fatal Crashes Increased in New Jersey
(CAMDEN CITy, NJ) – May is Trauma Awareness Month, which coincides with the traditional start of the summer travel season. In the United States, trauma is the leading cause of death for ages 1 through 46, with motor vehicle crashes being a significant contributor to trauma-related deaths and injury.
The trauma team at Cooper University Health Care, a leading academic health system, treats more than 3,500 trauma patients a year, many of them injured in motor vehicle accidents. Cooper University Hospital is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in South Jersey and the busiest trauma center in the region.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Council recently released sobering statistics that show a 5% increase in fatal crashes in New Jersey in 2020.
“Despite the pandemic, which resulted in more people staying home and fewer on the road, we actually saw more fatal crashes and collisions this past year,” said John Porter, MD, head of the Division of Trauma Surgery, and director of the Center for Trauma Services at Cooper University Health Care.
According to Dr. Porter, the reason for this increase in fatal crashes is risky behavior by drivers, including speeding, failure to wear seat belts, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and cell-phone use while driving. As more pandemic restrictions are lifted, it is predicted that even more people will be on the roads this summer. Whether you are traveling far or staying local, it only takes a few careless moments for tragedy to strike.
“After a challenging year, we want everyone to enjoy the summer months, but to do it safely,” said Dr. Porter. “A modicum of precaution will prevent you, or a loved one, from becoming a statistic in our trauma center.”
First, adopt a zero-tolerance policy of driving or allowing others to drive intoxicated. Alcohol impairment is involved in about a third of all vehicle fatalities. Designate a sober driver to ensure guests make it home safely after parties or get-togethers. Alcohol, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, and illegal drugs can all cause impairment.
Also, make sure the driver puts their cell phone away. While many distractions can occur while driving – people turning or stopping suddenly, animals running into the roadways, etc. – cell phones are one of the main culprits of car crashes related to distracted driving. To avoid being tempted to glance at your phone, give it to another passenger to hold or put it out of reach or in the back seat. If you must make a call, pull over to a safe spot and park before using your phone.
When planning your trip, be sure to get a good night’s sleep before departing and avoid drowsy driving, advises Dr. Porter. Leave early, plan ahead for heavy traffic, and stop occasionally to help avoid driving fatigue. Before departing, make sure every person in the vehicle is properly buckled up no matter how long or short the distance traveled. Never allow children to travel in a car unrestrained or on the lap of an adult or older child.
About the Trauma Center
The Trauma Center at Cooper University Hospital was established in 1982 and is one of only three New Jersey State-Designated Level I Trauma Centers verified by the American College of Surgeons, the highest national recognition possible. Cooper serves as the regional Trauma Center for southern New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean and Salem counties and acts as a resource for the Level II Trauma Centers in our region. A Level I Trauma Center cares for severely injured patients involved in motor vehicle crashes, falls, industrial accidents and acts of violence. Specially trained physicians and surgeons focus on the care of the trauma patient. On average, Cooper admits nearly 3,500 trauma patients each year, making it the busiest trauma center in New Jersey.