This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Public health is on the move, and has been at the forefront of transportation for a long time. In fact, the simple act of using a seat belt might be one of the most recognizable public health victories: From 1981 to 2010, the rate of seat belt use rose from 11 percent to about 85 percent, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Nowadays, it just seems strange to see someone not buckle up.
However, drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists still face preventable dangers on the road. A new national movement for complete streets is quickly gaining momentum to encourage planners to design our communities with health and safety in mind for all road users: walkers, bikers and those with special needs, in addition to automobile traffic. Even with infrastructure improvements on our roads, there are steps people can take to improve their own safety on the go.
For automobile drivers: Make sure you buckle up for every trip, even those close to home. Additionally, put away your cellphone while you are operating a car. Distracted-driving crashes account for more than 1,200 injuries each year. Leave plenty of time to reach your destination so you can follow the speed limit and arrive safely. Finally, keep an eye out for other road users. Motorcycles, bicyclists and pedestrians can be difficult to see, but it is our responsibility as drivers to share the road.
For cyclists and pedestrians: Cyclists should always wear a helmet while riding a bike. Helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 80 percent and can save lives. Walkers and bikers should adopt the “be safe, be seen” mindset. Wear reflective clothing, have lights in hand or on your bike, and be cautious around traffic. Always look for oncoming traffic, and do not assume that drivers have seen you, or that they will stop.
It is everyone’s responsibility to learn the rules of the road and follow traffic laws whenever they are out and about. In the past several years, several laws have gone into effect in Nevada to make our roads safer, including the law against using cellphones while driving and the law requiring drivers to allow 3 feet between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing. Visit www.nvdmv.com to learn more about traffic laws in Nevada.
Public health never stays in just one place. It stays with you while you’re on the move, keeping you safe no matter your mode of transportation. Public health is the perfect traveling companion. Let’s move forward together.