"Distracted to Death: Pay Attention or Pay the Price"
Injury and violence prevention have been a core value of the American Trauma Society (ATS) since we were founded in 1968. As an integral part of our mission, the ATS continues to be a national leader in preventing death and disability from traumatic injuries. These efforts continue to drive the organization's activities, resource development, and advocacy.
The American Trauma Society was instrumental in having May of each year designated as National Trauma Awareness Month (NTAM) by President Ronald Reagan and Congress in 1988. Since then, ATS has worked with other trauma organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC), USSG, SafeKids, National Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN) to develop injury prevention and trauma awareness materials for use by our members in their communities. Each year, the ATS works with its partners to designate a new focus for injury and violence prevention and awareness during National Trauma Awareness Month.
This year’s focus is "Distracted to Death: Pay Attention or Pay the Price."
Trauma is predictable and preventable, but what does that actually mean to us? Can we really do things that can change our risk of injury? If we can, what are examples of what is preventable? How can I implement in these practices into my daily life to keep myself and others safer?
Have you ever gotten in the car and driven to work when you were supposed to go to the store? How about forgetting the bank on the way home even with the checks sitting right there to remind you? We are all busier than ever, with multiple thoughts running through our minds at once and it is easy to lose our train of thought consistently. Add many devices and outside influences that distract us and it is easy to understand how one can be injured by this lack of attention.
Is lack of attention a distraction? “When people are distracted, they are not paying attention and fail to see the hazards, which can lead to injuries” (Morrison, 2013). Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for our youngest citizens and time and time again we see that the injury could have been prevented if the person had been paying better attention.
So, what is a distraction? Our thoughts jump immediately to our phones, including:
- Texting while driving
- Texting while walking
- Just the phone itself
You may be checking to see if someone important called or texted, but taking your eyes off the task at hand for up to three seconds is a distraction and can lead to an error in the workplace. This could cause a mistake, an injury, or even death. A few seconds focused on screen instead of your family, coworkers, or the road can be catastrophic. Our electronic devices are undeniably a distraction, but what about complacency?
Distractions involve more than just cell phones. The multitasking brain can get in the way. Distractions pose a threat when someone forgets a child in the car, leaves the gate left open to a pool area, takes their eyes off the child in the bathtub, misses the crosswalk and signal as a pedestrian, or leaves their bag on a hot stovetop. We are all at risk in every part of our lives.
National Trauma Awareness Month (NTAM) isn’t to remind you that trauma happens—we all know that. It is to offer an opportunity to reflect on how to keep ourselves, our families, our work force, and our communities safer by recognizing these distractions and helping to prevent injuries and deaths. It is an opportunity to look globally at how people are injured and work in the public health model to make impactful and meaningful changes.
Visit the resources developed by a committee of volunteers from the American Trauma Society (ATS) and the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN). The key areas of concerns related to distractions for your injury prevention team include:
Morrison, K. (2013). Distracted on the job. Safety and Health. Retrieved from https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/distracted-on-the-job
Download the 2020 National Trauma Awareness Month logo here.We also encourage trauma centers to have a Trauma Survivors Day to reunite patients and families who have been served by the trauma center. Visit the TSN web site for the materials to plan the celebration. Click on “Get Involved”, and then National Trauma Survivors Day.
We urge you to start planning activities and make this year’s celebration the best one yet!
If you have materials that you would like included in these resources, please contact ATS Member Services at 1-800-556-7890 or
Trauma Awareness / Trauma Survivors Day (Wednesday, May 20th)
Tool Kit for Trauma Awareness Ceremony
Trauma Awareness Ceremony Checklist
Trauma Awareness Generic Ceremony Brochure
Trauma Nurse Excellence Award Letter
How to Invite and Host Legislators or Policymakers
How to Participate in Trauma Survivors Day