Health First Trauma Surgeon Dr. Scott Zenoni: ‘Let’s Curb Pedestrian Traffic Deaths’

Distracted driving is a major factor in many kinds of accidents, and crashes killing pedestrians

A TRIATHLETE WHO OFTEN TRAINS outside in the early morning hours, Health First Trauma Surgeon Dr. Scott Zenoni admits simply seeing runners and cyclists can be a challenge. That’s why his message for those most vulnerable when they share the road with motorists is: “Be seen, be safe.” (Health First image)

Brevard County is ranked No. 4 nationally for pedestrian-versus-auto accidents in the U.S. Health First’s Dr. Scott Zenoni says we can change that, starting with pedestrians’ commitment
to ‘Be Seen, Be Safe’.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A triathlete who often trains outside in the early morning hours, Health First Trauma Surgeon Dr. Scott Zenoni admits simply seeing runners and cyclists can be a challenge. That’s why his message for those most vulnerable when they share the road with motorists is: “Be seen, be safe.”

“Wear lights, on the front and on the back of the body.”

According to a recent report from the nonprofit Smart Growth America, Florida ranked No. 1 for pedestrians killed by vehicle traffic. Orlando was the No. 1 deadliest metro area in the country, and shockingly, while Daytona Beach, Tampa and Jacksonville all break the top 10, it’s Brevard County that’s next highest at No. 4. The area averages about three pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people each year, and the number is rising.

“About 6% of the trauma alerts we get at Holmes Regional Medical Center are pedestrians versus autos, and we get many more of these when it’s dark. A good majority of these pedestrians were not seen,” he says. “I come in to work between about 3:45 and 5 a.m. It’s always dark, and I lose count of the number of people I see out running, walking with no lights on that I nearly hit because I don’t see them.”

A TRIATHLETE WHO OFTEN TRAINS outside in the early morning hours, Health First Trauma Surgeon Dr. Scott Zenoni admits simply seeing runners and cyclists can be a challenge. That’s why his message for those most vulnerable when they share the road with motorists is: “Be seen, be safe.” (Health First image)
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Such accidents may be the motorist’s fault. Distracted driving is a major factor in many kinds of accidents, and crashes killing pedestrians climbed 46% over the last decade, compared with a 5% increase for all other crashes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
But Dr. Zenoni says it’s still up to pedestrians to be bright and be seen along dark roadways.

“You know, a lot of the pedestrian-versus-auto injuries we see aren’t fatal. But these patients have devastating traumatic brain injuries, musculoskeletal injuries that leave them debilitated for life. It’s costing us billions of dollars annually to treat these patients once they make it to rehab.”

‘Be Seen, Be Safe’

Kaitlin Donner is co-owner of New Wave Physical Therapy and coaches a lot of distance athletes. She has joined Dr. Zenoni to spread the message, “Be Seen, Be Safe.” She is a triathlete herself who often trains before sunup and wears lights in the front and back.

“I’ve almost run into several walkers or runners out walking dogs, and I’m moving at the speed of a runner and I don’t see them. Even the number of cyclists I see legally cycling to go to the beach on cruisers that don’t have lights on. I worry about motorists who aren’t going to have time to react to them, even in a 25-mph zone.”

“As a trauma department, we preach preventive medicine,” Dr. Zenoni says. “One of the easiest ways we could prevent pedestrian-versus-auto accidents is to make pedestrians more seen.”

HEALTH FIRST TRAUMA SURGEON DR. SCOTT ZENONI recommends wearing lights on the front and on the back of the body when training outside in the early morning hours. (Health First image)

Last year, “vulnerable road users” — pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles — accounted for 55 of Brevard’s 102 crash deaths, according to reporting earlier this year in Florida Today – or 54% of the county’s crash fatalities.

The solution, Dr. Zenoni says, is to wear small lights before heading out to share the roadway with motorists. He himself runs and cycles with a solid LED white light clipped to his shirt front, almost like a headlight, and a blinking red light clipped to his back collar, simulating a brake light.

In his experience as a surgeon, grave injuries in pedestrian-versus-auto accidents happen when an artery is lacerated or ruptured, causing fatal blood loss; a spine or lung injury causes respiratory failure; or a closed or penetrative head injury proves fatal. In his trauma bay, he says, he’s most likely to address dangerous bleeds because the other two are deadly on location.

Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows 70% of the hit-and-run crashes in 2021 killed non-drivers – 169 were pedestrians and 45 were bicyclists. Its analysis found accidents were most frequent at night, dusk and dawn.

“We need to change the culture of people being out at night and not having some form of light on.”

To view more news and follow what’s happening at Health First, go to HF.org/news.

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