A Trauma Surgeon’s Plea to Houston Drivers

By Michelle McNutt, Chief of Trauma at Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center

Houston, we have a serious problem on our hands. We are home to some of the nation’s most distracted drivers. How do I know this? Every day on my way to work in one of the country’s busiest Level I trauma centers, I can’t help but notice all of the other drivers looking down at their phones, their eyes off the road. It frightens me – as a trauma surgeon, as a commuter and as a mother. No text message, social media post or phone call is worth your life or the lives of those around you.

The Deadliest City for Motorists

Texting and driving is a nationwide epidemic, but in Houston, the problem is especially serious. Did you know we are the deadliest city for motorists, according to the Houston Chronicle? Distracted driving has become a leading cause of motor vehicle collisions in Harris County and surrounding areas. More than 3,000 people were killed across the country in 2016 due to distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Houston, distraction was listed as a likely cause of more than 8,000 motor vehicle collisions.

A Witness to the Deadly Results of Distracted Driving

As Chief of Trauma at Red Duke Trauma Institute, I see the damage and devastation caused by distracted driving. Our team does everything we can to save lives, yet for some survivors, their lives are forever altered because of their injuries. The reality is that trauma is preventable; we each can take steps to reduce our risky behaviors and lessen the chance of causing needless injuries and deaths.  

It’s time to put down our phones. To my fellow parents, I urge you to lead by example. Talk to your children, even before they are able to drive, about the dangers of using a phone behind the wheel. From a very young age, our kids are watching our behavior and looking to us to be their role models.

It’s time to change the way we think about distracted driving. As a society, we have collectively advocated against drinking and driving. We are outraged when people get behind the wheel while intoxicated. I believe that distracted driving should merit that same level of outrage.  

Help Us Save Lives & Stop Distracted Driving

As a leading provider of trauma care in the Houston area, Memorial Hermann is dedicated to making Greater Houston safer and healthier. As part of the drive to end distracted driving, Memorial Hermann Life Flight® is working to motivate the entire community to put down their phones and keep their eyes on the road through targeted prevention initiatives. We launched Live Your DREAMS, a program that teaches high school students about safe driving behaviors.

Recently, we began working with mobile app SAFE 2 SAVE to tackle the life-threatening epidemic of distracted driving. SAFE 2 SAVE is a free mobile app that rewards drivers for not using their cellphones when they are behind the wheel. The app rewards users with points for refraining from using their mobile devices in the car. For every minute a driver does not touch his or her phone while driving, he or she receives points that can be redeemed at select Houston area businesses. It is our hope that this app will help curtail distracted driving and help us all refocus on what’s important – creating  a safe environment for everyone. 

Join me in saving lives and making our community safer, for my children and for your own. Take the pledge today to drive change in our great city so we all have an equal opportunity to get home safely.

Comments

  1. Would you please add MD or Dr. to her name? She deserves to have her credentials listed. Thank you! Dr. Kristi Nord

  2. Michelle, I saw your interview response regarding the wounded police officers. Thank you for all you do, saving lives.

    Many blessings,
    Lori Palmer

  3. It is ridiculous. Saw what I knew was a driver on their phone on I45 and was correct. Almost wrecked several vehicles. Guess what was on back window? BABY ON BOARD sign. Sick situation on our highways. Never seen such irresponsibility

  4. Appreciate the good advice and suggestions for incentivizing good behavior. Data shows voluntary incentive programs at best will change about 10% of outcome or less. What this city really needs is to aggressively enforce and ticket driving and talking or texting, along with a public service campaign. If it doesn’t have teeth, little will change. Texas rarely likes to learn from successes tiher states, but I lived in and saw success with reducing this deadly behavior in Maryland.

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