20 Apr 2016

By Marie Crandall

“I’ll just answer this one text…”, “One sec, let me look for my hands-free…” “Damn this train, I’ve got a sick patient waiting in the ER…”

It seems like I should be preaching to the choir, that surgeons would know better than to text and drive, or tweet and drive, or any kind of distracted driving.  But we don’t.  Every year we lose surgeons to distracted driving or other distracted drivers.   So, for Distracted Driving Awareness Month, I thought I would make a plea for safety, so that none of us becomes one of the over 3000 people killed or 400,000 people injured each year due to distracted driving.

It is part of who we are, our vocation, to be immediately available to our patients, our residents.  I remember before cell phones when you’d have to find a pay phone to return calls if you were away from home, or ask a generous shop or restaurant owner to let you use their phone.  Now, with cell phones, we can always be available.  But at what cost?  Being on the phone increases the likelihood of being in a crash fourfold, even with handsfree devices.  And texting complicated messages has to be at least as dangerous.  Maybe the only people who make news when they tweet and die are famous plastic surgeons (Heidi Montag’s surgeon Dr.Frank Ryan), but I’m fairly sure your friends and family will miss you if you die (and your partners, as they have to cover your calls and clinic).

I’m hoping that AWS readers would be sensible enough to always use seatbelts, and would certainly use car seats for their children.  But I am nearly 100% sure that most, if not all, of us have practiced unsafe driving, in some form or another.  Texting, speeding dangerously, rolling stop signs while in a hurry, driving post-call and exhausted, who hasn’t done those things?  But, seriously, don’t.  And you certainly don’t want to make the list of “grimly ironic texting-while-driving car crashes.”

On that uplifting note, here are some rules:

  1. Always wear your seatbelt.
  2. If you are going to talk and drive, obtain a Bluetooth connection or handsfree device for your car.  Take the 20 seconds to put it on before you start your car.  There are no convincing data to support it, but it seems logical.
  3. If you’re tired post-call, find a place to take a nap before you drive.  
  4. Always wear your seatbelt.
  5. If you need to have a long or serious conversation, you WILL be distracted.  Time to pull over or ask the other party to call you back in a few.
  6. The train is faster and bigger than you are.
  7. Always wear your seatbelt.

Thanks and stay alive.

PEO-20100604-01-Physician-Photos Portraits taken of physicians for the Physician Refferral Directories, both printed and on-line for Kathryn Lowry. Photographer, Laura Brown. Drop-In Session.


Marie Crandall, MD, MPH, FACS is the Medical Director of Research and Professor of Surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine Jacksonville.  She is an active health services researcher and advocate for environmental and social justice.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *