November 21, 2002
Methodist Rehabilitation Center physician urges Mississippians to 'think first' before holiday traveling
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Starting with the Thanksgiving holiday, more Americans will be traveling to visit family and friends, but they run the risk of becoming part of an ever-growing problem—people injured in travel accidents during the holiday season.
“Every year, we see an increase in the number of traffic-related fatalities and crippling injuries due to vehicle accidents,” said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “The first thing people can do to protect themselves is to plan ahead and slow down.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of accidental death, brain and spinal cord injury in the United States.
But being patient and wearing seat belts can lower your risk of being involved in a dangerous accident by 50 percent, Dr. Vohra added.
Along with taking time to plan out your vacation to prevent rushing, Dr. Vohra also encourages families to use appropriate car seats and seat belts for children. Car seats should be checked by a certified car seat technician to insure that they are installed correctly.
The American Automobile Association estimates that 79 percent of holiday travelers will choose to drive this year.
Alcohol-related traffic deaths are also more frequent during the holiday season, according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2001, 16,653 people were killed and more than 600,000 others were injured in crashes involving alcohol. The National Safety Council predicts there will be more than 500 deaths and 27,000 disabling injuries due to traffic crashes over the Christmas holiday (6 p.m., Dec. 21- 11:59 p.m., Dec. 25).
Lisa Gates, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program says there are other safety concerns to consider when traveling at Christmas.
"Heavy traffic, colder weather and shorter days can make driving more dangerous than during other months," said Gates. "All drivers should have their vehicle thoroughly checked out before heading out for the holidays and they should also check ahead for road and weather conditions."
Dr. Vohra suggest the following for a safe, happy holiday season:
- Never drink alcoholic beverages and drive.
- Always wear safety belts. When used properly, safety belts reduce the number of serious traffic injuries by 50 percent and fatalities by 60-70 percent.
- Be sure to use appropriate car seats and seat belts for children when traveling. If you are traveling in someone else's car, arrange ahead of time to borrow or rent the appropriate car seat for your child.
- Be extra patient when traveling during the holidays.
- Travel with a cell phone in case of emergencies, but never talk on a cell phone while driving.
- Expect increased traffic on the road and allow more time to reach your destination.
Never allow luggage or other items to block the rear window.
- Start every trip fully rested and remember to take additional rest every two to three hours.
“Defensive and sober driving should be everyone’s goal this season,” said Gates. “We want holiday celebrations to be fun and exciting, but most importantly, we don’t want to see you as a patient in our hospital.”
More information about Think First safety and injury prevention programs is available online at www.methodistonline.org.
Methodist Rehabilitation Center provides comprehensive medical rehabilitation programs for people with spinal cord and brain injuries, stroke and other neurological and orthopedic disorders and treats patients from all over the United States. The Jackson hospital is one of only 16 hospitals in the country designated as a Traumatic Brain Injury Model System by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
For more information:
Patience, seat belts augment holiday-season driving safety | The Clarion-Ledger