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News: Centegra encourages people to halt distracted driving

To celebrate National Trauma Awareness month, Centegra Health System joins the American Trauma Society this May in its pursuit to end distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16 percent of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving and 20 percent of injury crashes involved distracted driving.

Karen Battaglia, trauma coordinator at Centegra Hospital-McHenry, said distracted driving slows a person’s reaction time and increases traffic violations.

“People talking on cell phones while driving are twice as likely to get into rear-end collisions and are four times as likely to have an injury-causing crash,” she said. “Now is the time to just say ‘no'” to distracted driving. ”According to the NHTSA, in 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. ”Distracted Driving is prevalent everywhere,” said Melanie Korzuchowski, trauma coordinator at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock. “Undoubtedly we are all guilty of talking on our cell phones, eating or texting. These activities seem so innocent but in less than three seconds while being distracted a driver can be in a crash. It’s time that all drivers re-examine their habits to be sure they’re really making the best decisions for themselves, their families and their community.

”There are five steps every driver should take to avoid distracted driving. First, use a cell phone for emergency situations only. Even then, it is best to pull over to the right shoulder of the road to make a call. Hands-free devices for cell phones can still cause someone to miss important visual and audio cues on the road, so to stay safe make the decision not to call or answer a cell phone while driving.The second step to becoming a safer driver is to do multitasking outside of the car. Do not text message or search for music while on the road. The risks outweigh the benefits. The third step to safer driving is for teens. Teens should limit the number of passengers as well as the level of activity inside the car. Even beyond the time that state law requires, teen drivers should control the environment in their cars to be sure their focus is on the road rather than on their friends.Another way to pay more attention on the road is to avoid eating while driving. Being busy or trying to save time is not an excuse for distracted driving. Finishing breakfast on the way to work or school may seem like a time saver but it means less awareness of the drivers nearby. Food spills are a major cause of distraction.The final way to increase safety on the road is to pull off the road if drowsy. Drowsiness increases the risk of a crash or near crash by nearly four times. If a driver feels tired, he or she should get off the road.This May, join thousands of drivers around the country as they make the pledge to end distracted driving.