The Lasting Impact of Sudden Impact

Author: Natalie Moll, Student and Sudden Impact Graduate

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Driving is the first freedom teenagers often experience.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens.

When I was 16 years-old I had my first Sudden Impact experience, and since then, I have never viewed driving the same.

What is Sudden Impact?

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Sudden Impact is an interactive program that educates high school sophomores about the dangers of driving impaired, driving without a seat belt, and distracted driving. It is facilitated by the Injury Prevention Program for UMC’s Level 1 Trauma Center and by the Louisiana State Police.

The program also offers mock crashes and mock trials to further educate teenagers on the consequences of reckless driving. It has a big reach. Since the program’s inception 20 years ago, it has been expanded to 16 additional hospital host sites in 9 regions of Louisiana. It is in more than 120 schools.

The Presentation

On day one of Sudden Impact, we were presented a slide show filled with information on the risks of driving without seat belts and driving impaired (at the time, distracted driving wasn’t a large part of the program).

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I remember we took an anonymous test before the start of the presentation that asked questions such as:

  • How often do you wear your seat belt?
  • Would you or have you gotten behind the wheel after having a drink?

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Then, we heard from three speakers — a woman from the Trauma Prevention Team, a state trooper, and a woman who had been injured because of a drunk driver — that really ingrained three lessons I still think of when I get behind the wheel:

  1. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
  2. 100 percent of crashes are preventable.
  3. Seat belts save lives.

Following our three speakers, we took an anonymous post-test that asked the same questions as the previous one. However, when compared to the pre-test, we noticed a 22% increase in responses that aligned with safer driving habits.

For example, one of the questions asked: How often will you wear a seat belt while in a car? During the pre-test, only 64% of students answered “always,” but for the post-test, 97% of students answered “always.”

The Mock Crash

About a year later, I had my second Sudden Impact experience. It was the mock car crash, which stressed the consequences of motor vehicle crashes as a result of impaired driving, distracted driving, and not using seat belts…along with everything that happens next — EMS arrival, the trip to the hospital, the family being notified…the list goes on. While the presentation I went through the year before was eye-opening, the only way to describe the mock crash is INTENSE.

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Sudden Impact set up a crash in our faculty parking lot in the morning, and while I knew there was going to be an assembly, I never thought I would have to witness girls I knew hanging out of cars screaming in agony. Although it’s all fake, it’s chilling how real it feels. Watching a classmate being loaded into a coroner’s van while her mother is crying is an image that will forever with me. It reminded me that I have to make the conscious decision to think about the consequences of my actions, especially when driving.

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The Injury Prevention Team also returns to some schools three years after the first presentation for an anonymous survey for high school seniors that asks about the effectiveness of the overall program.

97% of the seniors said they felt that Sudden Impact kept them from driving impaired, driving distracted and not using their seat belts as well as practicing safer driving habits.

The Impact

I’m a college junior now, and I practice safer habits when I’m driving or riding in a car because of the Sudden Impact program. It gave me a true perspective of the dangers that come with driving. I think it was important that I learned the risks of reckless driving the same time I was learning the rules of the road, and it was important for me to hear it from those three speakers. I paid more attention to the things they were saying because they were the ones saying it.

Now, I never get in a car without using the seat belt or while impaired, and I never have to remind my friends who went through the program with me to do the same. It’s because we all understand the consequences of our potential actions…and that may not be the case had we not experienced Sudden Impact.

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Remember: 100% of all motor vehicle crashes are preventable. Drive safely, and remember the impact you have while on the road.

 

About the Author: Natalie Moll

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Natalie Moll is a junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She is majoring in mass communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in sociology. Natalie is also a founding member of the Omega chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, where she serves as Sisterhood Chair.

Eyes on the Road: The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Author: Bridget Gardner, Injury Prevention Coordinator

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Have you ever been on a cell phone and passed your exit? Have you reached for an item in your vehicle or taken your eyes of the road just for a second, only to find yourself swerving to avoid the car ahead?

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When you are in your car, a moment’s distraction can easily have more devastating consequences.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 9% of the fatal crashes in the U.S. were caused by distracted driving and 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Distractions aren’t just cell phones. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving.

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Distractions include adjusting a radio, GPS or MP3 player, texting, talking on a cell phone, updating social media, selecting a song list, talking to passengers, eating, drinking, grooming, like shaving or applying makeup, reading, and diverting your attention to crashes and billboards.

If you remove your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, at 55 mph, you will drive the length of a football field.  So, you’re basically driving blindfolded for the length of the football field. This not only places you at risk, it places every driver on the road at risk.

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Cell phones are a primary distraction, because it involves three types of distraction simultaneously:

  • Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
  • Manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and
  • Cognitive (taking your mind off driving).

In the fractions of a second in which you need to identify a danger, process the decision, react and respond to the hazard, there isn’t enough time when you do not remain focused or your attention isn’t on driving.

Forty-four states, including Louisiana, ban text messaging for all drivers. Fourteen states prohibit hand-held cell phone use by drivers.

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Currently, Louisiana has a bill to propose the use of hands free devices only for drivers.

University Medical Center, which is home to the region’s only Level I Trauma Center, has a strong commitment to the prevention of injuries due to distracted driving. The Trauma Center’s Injury Prevention Team is committed to decreasing the risk of injury through programs such as Sudden Impact.

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Twice per week, high school sophomores attend the hospital-based program to understand the real consequences to such high-risk behavior. Helping them understand the risks of distracted driving is essential – after all, 76% of participants state that they have been in a crash or near crash because the driver of the vehicle was distracted.

Distracted driving is also written into the script for the Sudden Impact Mock Crash, “Consequences of Impact” and the Mock Trial, “Lifetime of Consequences.”

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We encourage you to not be the next victim.

Reduce cell phone distractions

If there is an option to turn your phone off or send automatic replies to texts while driving, this is highly recommended.

It can wait

Most conversations and texts can wait and if they cannot, pull to a safe, well-lit area to return the call or text.

Safety first

Be a role model to the passengers in your vehicle. If you have a call or text that needs to be returned, have a passenger return the call or text for you.

Eyes on the road

Keep your eyes on the road and always be aware of your surroundings.

Drive defensively

Be ready to avoid a crash by driving defensively.

Remember, crashes are PREVENTABLE.