She and her team oversee all the reports of people coming into the hospital’s renowned Ginni and Richard Mithoff Trauma Center with life-threatening injuries resulting from vehicle crashes, industrial mishaps, acts of violence or accidental falls. While some accidents are unavoidable, those that are can be a sense of frustration for Garza, the registered nurse of more than 30 years.
This year, as chair of the injury prevention committee for the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, as well as for the Texas EMS Trauma and Acute Care Foundation, Garza is spearheading the driving initiative, Just Drive, in Texas. The goal of the program is reduce the number of vehicle accidents resulting from distracted driving.
Through extensive research, Garza found that the perils of driving while impaired by alcohol and drugs, and to some extent, texting and using telephones, had significant public attention. But what she saw that lacked public attention were other driving distractions such as eating, grooming, talking to passengers or driving while drowsy.
“Driving is a responsibility that should be taken seriously by anyone who sits behind the wheel,” she says. “If your eyes aren’t focused on the road, if your hands are not on the wheel or your mind is not focused 100 percent on driving, you are a distracted driver.”
Notable distractions targeted in the campaign include:
· Using a cell phone or smartphone
· Eating and drinking
· Talking to passengers
· Reading, including maps
· Using a navigation system
· Watching a video
· Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
· Driving while fatigued, physically impaired or emotionally upset
Just Drive kicked off in the fall of 2013 with its unified message and curriculum at pilot programs in five Texas communities. The two-year program rolled out statewide in February.
“We wanted a program that could be adopted by all communities regardless of size and still retain the key message that all distractions while driving can affect drivers and put the public in danger,” Garza says.
Texting and using a telephone are still a major focus of the Just Drive campaign.
“Those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash,” Garza says. “When drivers send or read a text message, their reaction time is doubled. Humans cannot multi-task safely. When someone gets behind the wheel, full attention should be on driving.”
According to research, sending or reading a text takes one’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds and is like driving blindfolded the length of an entire football field at 55 miles per hour. In 2011, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that more than 3,300 people were killed and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
For more information on Just Drive, visit Texas EMS Trauma and Acute Care Foundation (http://www.tetaf.org/