How to Stop Texting While Driving (And Why People Do It)

The law against texting while driving in Texas (complete with fines of $99 to $200) went into effect in Sept 2017. But do we really need a law to prevent us from doing what we know is potentially deadly? In 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation reported that 455 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving in Texas. Distracted driving has been called the “new drunk driving” because people who text while driving are:

  • As impaired as if they’d consumed 4 beers
  • 23% more likely to cause a crash

Melanie Leonard, RN, Trauma Program Manager at Medical City North Hills, encourages people to commit to not driving distracted and to “put texting aside and arrive alive.”

According to Matt Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, the average driver who sends a text glances at their phone for 5 seconds, during which time the car, at 55 mph, will travel the length of a football field.

So why are people still texting while driving?

A survey commissioned by AT&T® found that at least 7 in 10 people use their smartphones while driving. Although texting and emailing top the list of activities, the survey revealed that people are also using social media, Web surfing, video chatting and taking selfies … while driving.

Among those who text while driving, survey respondents said they:

  • Want to stay connected to family, friends and work (43%)
  • Do it “out of habit” (Nearly 33%)
  • Can multitask, even while driving (Nearly 33%)
  • Have FOMO, or fear of missing out on something important (28%)
  • Can text while driving without affecting their driving performance (25%)
  • Believe others expect them to respond to texts “right away” (25%)
  • Feel a “sense of satisfaction” when they read or respond to a text (17%)
  • Feel “anxious” if they don’t respond right away (14%)
  • Are “addicted to texting” (6%)

Addicted to tech.

Ninety-eight percent of those who admitted to texting while driving said they know it’s dangerous but they do it anyway, using many of the reasons above to rationalize their behavior. According to experts, this is a classic sign of addiction. Compulsively checking your phone and reading and responding to texts, tweets, emails and posts causes an increase in dopamine, a chemical released by our brains that makes us feel happy.

In addition to the risks of texting while driving, being too plugged in can take a toll on your physical and mental health. In his article “Is Too Much Tech Making You Sick?,” Roger Butler, MD, a psychiatrist at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital and Medical City McKinney, says that the drawbacks of the digital age can include depression, social awkwardness (especially for children), back and neck problems, headaches, eye strain and sleeping disorders.

To find out if you have a digital addiction, take the Digital Distraction Test created by The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, the organization that conducted AT&T’s survey.

Breaking the habit: How to stop texting while driving.

Let’s say that you’re one step ahead of the texting while driving ban. You already drive with your phone out of reach or you’ve downloaded an app that helps you avoid distractions while driving, such as AT&T’s Drive Mode®. Great job. But now you’ve got to fill that smartphone-sized empty space and try to get to where you’re going without lapsing into boredom-induced road rage. Here are a few ideas.

  • Listen to a podcast

Podcasts are episodic digital audio files that are available to download from the Internet for free or via subscription. There are podcast titles for every taste, including politics, pop culture, romance, mystery, celebrity gossip, true crime sports and more. Check out TIME magazine’s 50 Best Podcasts of 2017.

  • Listen to audio books

No time for reading? Download an old classic or the latest bestseller and enjoy having someone read it to you while you get from A to B. Find a list of free audio book websites here.

  • Talk to your kids

When you’re the chauffeur, it’s only fair that the kids put down their phones, too. Make this your catch-up time — sometimes it’s easier to talk in the car than among all the distractions at home. You can also play car games if you’re on a long trip. Check out Pinterest for a list of games such as license plate bingo, eye spy and road trip scavenger hunt plus the ultimate road trip playlist.

  • Listen to a movie or soundtrack

If you’re bored by your radio’s choices, listen to your favorite movie (just don’t watch it) or the music from the latest Broadway hit. A current favorite: the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton,” available on Amazon and included with a Prime membership.

Texting while not driving.

If you’re wondering whether it’s okay to text while stopped in traffic or at a light, the answer is yes. However, drivers are cautioned to pay attention so they won’t stop the flow of traffic.

For fast, emergency help when you need it most, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24-hour Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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Revised 3/8/2018

How to Get the Most out of a Family Road Trip


Does a family road trip sound more like work than fun? Before you ditch your plans completely, check out our tips for smoothing over the bumps of traveling by car with kids. We’ll show you how to stay safe and sane while hitting the road for some quality family time.

  • Ready your ride. Check off all three parts of this important tip and you’ll be ruling the road in no time.
    1. Pre-check: Make sure tires are in good condition and inflated properly, have the brakes inspected, top off oil, engine coolant and windshield wiper fluid and fill the gas tank. You want all systems ready to go before departure.
    2. Onboard safety: Fill a duffle bag or crate with emergency supplies, including tools, a flashlight, extra oil and coolant, a first-aid kit, bottled water and more. Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s full list.
    3. Passenger comfort: Phone and tablet chargers, check. Blankies, pillows, binkys and stuffed animals, check. Snacks and drinks, check. Music, directions, sunglasses, car games and toys, diaper bags, wet wipes, paper towels, trash bags, check. Forgot something? Don’t panic — pick it up on the way.
  • Bypass the beach. Unless your heart is really set on a sand-and-sea getaway, choose a different destination to avoid traffic and crowds. The AAA says low gas prices caused record numbers of Americans to travel over Memorial Day weekend, and beaches were the top vacation spots. Look for Labor Day travel to be similar. Consider a lakeside retreat or take day trips to explore DFW’s many attractions.
  • Don’t drive distracted. Distracted driving is the new drunk driving, and is becoming more frequent. While you’re (silently) fuming at drivers who are texting, talking, eating or just plain not paying attention, don’t forget that you have potential distractions in the backseat. Make sure kids are in proper car seats for their ages, are belted in securely, have their own space to avoid fighting over territory and have enough water, healthy snacks, movies, music (with headphones) and other activities to keep them hydrated, happy and occupied.
  • Expect an emergency. But only in the sense of being prepared if one does happen. Pack medications in their original bottles, have insurance cards handy and know how to get the most out of a trip to the ER.
  • Plan for play. Texas has some great rest stops (and who doesn’t love Buc-ee’s?), but spending lunchtime exploring an unfamiliar park in a new city can be so much better — especially for burning off excess energy and finding new Pokémon. You can plan your stops ahead of time or have your navigator locate places on the go. Stay safe by keeping kids in sight at all times, making sure they have proper footwear for the activities they’ll be doing, and never, ever leaving them alone in a car.
  • Summer smart. That big yellow fireball in the sky may be winding down in other parts of the country, but here in Texas it’s still hanging around. A bad sunburn can completely ruin your children’s’ vacation and their mood, so decrease your risk of sunburn and skin cancer by applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher regularly, staying in the shade when possible, wearing UV protective clothing and donning sunglasses and hats. The heat also means mosquitos are still active, so protect your family from mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika and West Nile by applying insect repellent containing DEET.
    • Bonus tip: Apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent. Don’t spray directly in children’s faces; spray in your hands and then apply.

We hope you have a safe, memorable family road trip, but if things don’t go as planned, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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New Zika Information: Know How to Stay Safe from Mosquitoes


Your summer guide to Zika, West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses.

Independence Day brought rain and heat to North Texas; two things mosquitoes love most. The holiday also brought reports of the 12th case of Zika virus in Dallas County and the 8th in Tarrant County, bringing the total in Texas to 53 as of July 6. Nationwide, the CDC reports 935 cases as of June 29, with 12 babies impacted by the virus: 7 infants with birth defects and 5 pregnancy losses with birth defects. July 6 also marked Dallas County’s first confirmed case of West Nile Virus this year. Given the circumstances, we thought it might be helpful to provide a recap of risk factors, symptoms, treatments and prevention measures for Zika and West Nile. And while we’re on the subject of mosquitoes, we’ll include a couple of other mosquito-borne viruses North Texans need to watch out for as well.


Zika has been a topic of concern since last July when the country of Brazil, an active Zika virus transmission area, reported links between the virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults and microcephaly in infants (a neurological birth defect that results in an underdeveloped head and brain). Currently, there are no reports of locally transmitted cases of Zika in Texas with the exception of one Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the virus while traveling abroad.

But Americans — especially athletes and coaches heading to Rio to compete in this August’s Olympic Games — are also concerned about summer travel plans. If it makes you feel any better, the World Health Organization issued a statement June 14 announcing there is no reason to move or postpone the games; partly because it’s about to be winter in Brazil.

This is great news for sports fans everywhere, but it is mosquito season in Texas, so it’s smart to be informed and prepared. Just keep in mind that your chances of getting Zika or any of the other mosquito-borne viruses listed below are very low, and of those who do become infected, with the exception of chikungunya, only about 1 in 5 develop symptoms.

Your guide to Zika, West Nile, dengue and chikungunya.


If you or someone in your family suspects they may have a mosquito-borne virus, alert a medical health professional immediately. If you are experiencing any of the complications listed above, seek immediate emergency medical treatment.

Medical City Healthcare wishes you a safe, bite-free summer, but if a mosquito ruins your day, it’s a relief to know there are 17 emergency locations with FastERTX average wait times posted online. Visit to find the ER nearest you.


Did You Know? Distracted Driving is the New Drunk Driving.

Would you down 4 beers and slide behind the wheel of your car, ready to start a family vacation or pick up the kids from swimming lessons? Of course not. But if you’re texting while driving — even just a little — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you’re just as physically impaired as if you’d polished off those 4 drinks before grabbing the keys. It’s called distracted driving and it makes you 23% more likely to crash.

Who’s guilty of distracted driving?

These days, drivers who do nothing but sit behind the wheel with their hands at 10 and 2 are few and far between, but there is a group that has a tougher time keeping their hands on the steering wheel. According to the NHTSA:

  • Teenage drivers 15 to 19 years old have the highest percentage of distracted driving fatalities
  • Drivers in their 20s represent
    • 27% of all distracted drivers
    • 38% of distracted drivers using cell phones at the time of a crash fatality
  • Since 2007, young drivers (16-24) have been observed using electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers
  • At any given daylight moment in the U.S., approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving

Obviously, young people need help staying off their phones and on the road. Just tell them to:

  • Turn mobile phones to silent when driving
  • Put mobile phones out of reach (in the trunk or glovebox, for example)
  • Or better yet, completely turn their mobile phones off

Are you modeling distracted driving?

Unless you’re modeling this behavior for your kids, these suggestions will likely fall on deaf ears. In fact, what are you modeling? How many of these (answer truthfully) have you done while driving?

  • Texting
  • Using any type of mobile device
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Fixing hair and makeup
  • Brushing teeth
  • Changing clothes
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player

While texting is by far the most serious because it requires using your eyes, hands and brain, all of these (and more) equal distracted driving and impair to some degree your ability to drive safely.

Just ask Matt Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, who treats patients who’ve both caused and been the victim of distracted driving. He says the average driver who sends a text glances at their phone for 5 seconds, during which time the car, at 55 mph, will travel the length of a football field. Scary, right?

Do these 5 and stay alive.

Here are 5 more things you can do to keep yourself and your young drivers from getting distracted:

    1. We weren’t kidding — model safe behavior — no cell phone use at all
      • Seriously, turn it off or put it out of reach
      • Make calls and text only after pulling over
    2. Download a deterrent app, such as LifeSaver Distracted Driving
    3. Enter your destination in your GPS before starting to drive, and if alone, use one with voice prompts
    4. Know which Texas cities have cell phone ordinances that could cost you big in fines
    5. Take our pop quiz on texting and driving

For fast, emergency help when you need it most, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24-hour Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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Revised 3/8/2018


Headed Home for the Holidays? How to Travel Safely.

Travel Safety Tips for Holiday Homecomings or Getaways

Whether you’re heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, back to the old neighborhood to visit family and friends or have planned a perfect getaway vacation, these tips can help keep you and your family safe and healthy on your trip. And that will make everyone’s holiday happier!

First, the No. 1 rule for healthier travels: stay home if anyone in the travel party is sick. No one likes to cancel holiday plans or disappoint loved ones, but there are very good reasons to reschedule your trip:

  • It’s uncomfortable to travel or stay anywhere other than home when you don’t feel well.
  • The stress of traveling could worsen the condition, necessitating a visit to a doctor or emergency room away from home and delay recovery.
  • You spread germs to everyone you come in contact with – and cold, flu, or childhood diseases are really lousy hostess gifts!

Ready to go? Whatever your mode of transportation, here are some basic tips to follow:

  • If you are pregnant or have a chronic health condition, get your doctor’s clearance to travel.
  • If you take prescription medications for a chronic condition (asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc.), ALWAYS:
    • Pack medications (in their original prescription or over-the-counter packaging) in carry-on luggage or in a bag you can access easily if driving.
    • Pack enough for the duration of your trip plus a few extra days in case of delays.
    • Stick as close to your regular medication schedule as possible while traveling.
    • Carry a list of your medications and your physician’s contact information with you in case you need to visit a doctor or an emergency room during your trip.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water and eat sensibly to help avoid headaches, stomachaches and digestive problems.
  • Stretch your legs periodically to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot), a serious condition that can result from staying seated for prolonged periods of time.

Special Tips for Holiday Road Trips:

  • Make sure your vehicle’s brakes, tires, windshield wipers, lights, oil, and fluid levels are road-ready before you leave.
  • Avoid accidents by practicing courteous, safe driving – that includes NO TEXTING WHILE DRIVING – and stopping for rest breaks.
  • Carry a cell phone and charger with an adaptor for the car. Always keep your phone charged.
  • Stop only at well-lit, busy gas stations or rest stops and always go to the restroom with children.
  • Pack an emergency kit that includes a first aid kit, flashlight, water, snacks and blankets.
  • If you have car trouble, pull over to the shoulder, activate your flashers, call for roadside assistance and wait inside the vehicle.

Special Tips for Flying:

  • Avoid flying if you have an ear, nose, or sinus infection to prevent pain or damage to eardrums.
  • Wear comfortable, non-constricting clothing on the plane.
  • Periodically move your feet and ankles while seated. On long flights get up and stretch your legs.
  • Drink water and use moisturizer, hydrating eye drops and saline nasal spray to reduce the effects of low humidity in the air.

Happy and safe holiday travels everyone!

For fast, emergency help when you need it most, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24-hour Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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The AAA Guide to Trouble-Free Travel,
Health Tips for Airline Travel, Aerospace Medical Association
Staying Healthy on a Cruise,