Should Doctors Help Address America's Epidemic of Road Deaths?

As a leading cause of death in the U.S., car collisions are one of the country's foremost public health problems. But a review of the last century of medical literature reveals increasing reluctance by the profession to weigh in on the subject.

Angie Schmitt speaks with David Jones, the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard, who "charted the fascinating historical trajectory of how physicians’ views on driving-related health risks have shifted, in an article that was itself published in the [New England Journal of Medicine] earlier this month."

Though the public health threat posed by automobiles was repeatedly debated by doctors in the first half of the 20th century, the subject waned in significance in recent decades. 

For instance, "Despite an article in the most recent edition of the Journal finding that distracted driving is associated with significantly increased crash rates among both novice and experienced drivers, Jones says doctors still don’t seem to be comfortable taking decisive action to prevent these kinds of collisions," notes Schmitt.

So what's a proactive way that doctors could help prevent such collisions? Jones offers an example:

One of my colleagues, Amy Ship, who works at the Beth Israel [Deaconess Medical Center] in Boston, she said she routinely asks her patients, “Do you text and use cell phones while you drive?” If they say yes, she reads them the riot act. And it’s her opinion that all doctors should do that. What percentage of doctors ask patients about this? I bet it’s close to zero.

Full Story: What Should Doctors Do to Prevent Traffic Deaths?


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