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Press Release Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Orthopaedic Surgeons Advise Teen Drivers to Use Caution as School Ends and Summer Approaches
Tuesday June 7, 9:31 am ET

ROSEMONT, Ill., June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- It's the time of their lives! Prom, graduation, summer gatherings and long holiday weekends mean long days, even longer nights with lots of food and alcohol. The combination of these factors can lead to severe driving consequences and fatalities for a number of teenagers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.Teenage drivers are involved in fatal crashes at twice the rate of drivers overall, and have the fatality rate two times that of drivers ages 25 to 69. Even more startling is the fact that more than 19 percent of 16-20 year olds involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2003 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater, which classifies them as legally drunk in all states. That is why the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) urges teens to use caution when driving and not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Every day, orthopaedic surgeons witness the tragic aftermath of individuals who have been injured in automobile accidents. NHTSA also noted that in 2003 more than 6.3 million police-reported motor vehicle crashes occurred in the United States. A total of 42,643 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes and another 2.9 million individuals were injured.

"Awareness and preventative measures are crucial to reducing traffic fatalities, and can mean life or death for you and anyone sharing the road," stated Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, and President, AAOS. "It is important to stay alert, calm and in control at all times."

Because alcohol slows reaction time, blurs and distorts vision, and impairs judgment, orthopaedic surgeons urge all individuals not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Equally important, however, is for parents to talk with their children about the dangers of reckless driving. The Academy warns teenagers to beware of the potential risks and devastating repercussions of underage drinking, which can include health consequences, legal ramifications, loss of scholarships, and expulsion from school or worse. The Academy offers the following guidelines for keeping teenagers safe on and off the road:

  • Wearing safety belts plays an important role in preventing fatalities.
  • Don't drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are of legal age and choose to drink, make sure there is a designated driver who doesn't drink and is familiar with the vehicle. If you feel you have had too much to drink, call a cab -- don't drive.
  • Don't let friends drive when you know they have been drinking. Stay calm and logical and clearly explain the reason they should not be driving. Use humor and avoid making them feel embarrassed. Refuse to go with them and stick to your refusal. If all else fails, distract the driver and take the keys.
  • In general, for parties where alcohol is being served, it is important to make sure the bar is closed at least one hour before the end of the party. Offer coffee to guests and never let anyone drive under the influence of alcohol. Do not serve alcohol to anyone under age 21.
  • If you are taking prescription medicine, read the labels for warnings and consult your physician about how your medications or over-the-counter drugs could affect driving.
  • Talking on the phone while driving can be distracting to you and others around you. Please abide by state and local laws regarding cell phone usage in cars.
  • Never exceed the posted speed limit. If weather conditions are problematic, pull over and wait until the conditions are more favorable. Try not to drive in unfamiliar areas at night.
  • Always maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead; keep a following distance of at least two seconds. Add one second for each adverse driving condition such as bad weather.
  • Be extra careful in residential areas and school zones.
  • Obey all traffic signals and watch for signs at intersections.
  • If you're going to pass a car, make sure you are in a passing zone; beware of blind spots.
  • Beware of potential road hazards. Drive defensively and watch for cars that suddenly swerve from their lanes to avoid pot holes, construction barriers or stalled vehicles.
  • Do not drive when you're tired.
  • Drive a well-maintained vehicle.
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