Our top Chicago accident attorneys have frequently written about the extreme dangers of distracted driving – including texting while driving, and talking on the phone while driving, even if the driver is using a hands-free device. Now, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine’s “Perspective” edition has published an article challenging primary-care physicians to take a stand against these dangerous practices, by educating their patients about the very real risks. The attorneys of Passen & Powell applaud the Journal’s efforts, and devoutly hope that physicians across the country will respond.
The author of the piece, Dr. Amy N. Ship, is a medical school teacher who oversees young doctors-in-training in an academic practice. In her practice, she has noted that physicians routinely include in annual preventative-care checkups a series of questions and topics for discussion with patients, designed to reduce the risk that a patient will engage in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors.
Some of these questions are targeted towards preventing what we think of as traditional health issues such as disease. These include questions on diet, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and other such behaviors. But others of these questions are targeted towards preventing patient accidents, trauma, and emergency room visits. These include questions on helmet use, seatbelt use, and other similar safety measures.
Dr. Ship’s proposal is elegant in its simplicity. She simply notes that, with the epidemic of accidents, injuries, and death stemming from distracted driving, it only makes sense to begin to question patients on distracted driving practices, as well. Our Chicago car accident lawyers heartily endorse her proposal.
Including such questions in annual preventative-care checkups in far from symbolic. Because the practice is only now being proposed, there have been no studies establishing a direct correlation between physician questions about distracted driving and the reduction of these dangerous behaviors. There have been other studies, however, showing the effectiveness of the practice as to other problem behaviors. For example, research by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has shown that even only three minutes of discussion with a physician about the risks associated with smoking makes it more likely that a patient will quit.
This only stands to reason. Although the dangers of smoking are now widely known, the usual means of conveying this information – public service announcements, blandly-worded television commercials, and habitually-ignored warning labels – are lost in the bustle of modern life. But actual conversation, in which a smoker is forced to focus on and truly think about the real-world risks of his behavior, cannot so easily be ignored. Our Chicago products liability attorneys believe that when this conversation is had with an authority figure such as a physician (as opposed to friends and acquaintances), it has even greater resonance.
We believe that this same effect can be had with respect to distracted driving. As with smoking, the great risks associated with distracted driving are now widely known, if frequently ignored. As our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys have previously noted, distracted driving is now one of the principal causes of automotive accidents in America, with an estimated 28% of all accidents, or 1.6 million accidents a year, tied to these dangerous practices.
And although estimates of the increased risk of vary, studies have shown that talking on a cell phone while driving can increase the risk of an accident about four times over – the equivalent of driving while intoxicated. Texting, however, increases the risk of an accident about 23 times over: an unacceptable risk for drivers, their passengers, and the innocent drivers and pedestrians in their way.
Our Chicago accident lawyers encourage physicians to adopt the practices described in Dr. Ship’s insightful article. Indeed, we advocate that every possible measure be taken – from education to legislation to lawsuits – to stop this negligent behavior that has somehow become commonplace in American society. Conversations by physicians are but one piece of the puzzle, but we hope that they will prove an effective tool. As Dr. Ship herself notes, “When a doctor raises an issue while providing overall preventative care, the message is different from that conveyed by a public service announcement nestled between ads for chips and beer or a printed warning on a box.”
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago injury attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.