AAOS Bulletin - February, 2005

Kansas Speedway event promotes safety

Orthopaedist uses popularity of NASCAR to bring attention to road safety

By Carolyn Rogers

Frustrated by the unsafe driving practices that have landed so many young drivers in her operating room, orthopaedist Kimberly J. Templeton, MD, decided to do something about it.

“While it’s difficult to see anyone injured this way, it’s especially upsetting when I see young people who were out doing things that obviously put them at risk, such as speeding or drunk driving,” says Dr. Templeton, associate clinical professor of orthopaedics at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) in Kansas City, Kan. “I wanted to try to have an impact on the problem, rather than just treat the injuries.”

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (seated) officiated at a Sept. 7, 2004, proclamation-signing ceremony designating Oct. 12-20, 2004, “Road Safety Awareness Week” in Kansas. Also present at the ceremony were (from left) Reuben Sullivan (uncle of Bechtold); Reuben Bechtold, a patient who was injured in a motorcycle accident; Melissa Erwin, RN; Michael Moncure, MD, trauma surgeon; Kimberly J. Templeton, MD; Liz Carlton, program director of trauma services at KUMC; and Monica Cassube, a patient injured in a motor vehicle accident.

Road Safety Awareness Week

As chair of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade’s (USBJD) Public Education Committee, Dr. Templeton knew she could draw greater attention to road safety awareness by tying her efforts into the USBJD’s annual National Awareness Week.

So she quickly went to work—talking to colleagues, contacting local chapters of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), approaching local high schools, writing to the governor—anyone she thought might help.

Her efforts paid off. Dr. Templeton was instrumental not only in encouraging Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to proclaim October 12-20, 2004, “Road Safety Awareness Week” in the state, but also in mobilizing local forces to get the word out about road safety— to high school students, in particular.

Reaching out to high school students

Leading up to and during National Awareness Week, Dr. Templeton gave a number of presentations at local high schools and community groups—talking about road safety and the musculoskeletal injuries that often result from motor vehicle collisions. She brought along orthopaedic devices to show the students how such injuries are treated.

“I’m trying to educate the kids that when you’re injured in an auto accident, we’ll do everything we can for you, but you may not be as good as you were before,” she says. “When I talk to my young patients in follow-up, most of them believe what they see in the movies—that if you get in an accident, you get fixed and then you’re as good as new.”

Dr. Templeton was given access to the schools by contacting them directly and through contacts at the local (SADD).

“I ended up talking to about 3,200 kids—maybe more,” she says.

The “main event,” however, took place on Saturday, Oct. 30, at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

Kansas Speedway event

“I wanted to stage an event that would really draw attention to road safety awareness,” Dr. Templeton explains. “NASCAR and some of the other driving events are a big deal here in the Midwest—and elsewhere, too—so I thought we could use that to help focus attention on driving safety. Race car drivers are really the ultimate in safe drivers.”

Orthopaedic surgeon Kimberly Templeton, MD, (second from right) stands in front of a Kansas City fire truck with other participants at the Kansas Speedway event.

Because the University of Kansas works with the Kansas Speedway, she already had some contacts at the race course. “I worked a lot with their public relations staff—they were very eager to help up us out,” she says.

Dr. Templeton promoted the event during her high school presentations, with newspaper advertisements and fliers, and by “sending out mass e-mails to everyone I knew,” she says.

Newspaper ads promoting the event—and road safety in general—ran in two editions of the Kansas City Star. Dr. Templeton paid for a portion of the ads with some of the $5,000 in award money she received from the Kemper Foundation last year for excellence in teaching and advising. She also used award money to purchase food and other incidentals for the event.

Event draws kids, parents, community members

The three-hour event was staged in and around one of the race car garages on the infield area of the Kansas Speedway. It was geared toward teenage drivers, soon-to-be drivers and their parents, but was open to all who wished to attend.

“Our event took place while a competitive driving school was in progress, so there were race cars zipping around us,” Dr. Templeton recalls. “It was pretty noisy, but fun!”

The infield garage housed a number of booths, each featuring materials related to road safety, such as X-rays of patients injured in crashes, photographs of orthopaedic injuries, orthopaedic devices used in treatment, road safety handouts, driving tips and more. Each attendee also received a “Kansas Road Safety Awareness Week” t-shirt.

Community members came out in force to speak to the kids and help out at the event.

Local law enforcement officials arrived, towing the remains of a car that had been totaled in a motor vehicle collision. The display of twisted metal made a strong visual impact on the attendees.

Police officers also demonstrated the types of roadside tests the teens would receive if pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, and explained the serious consequences of a drunk driving conviction.

Kansas-area emergency medical personnel—including firefighters, paramedics and MedEvac personnel—showed the kids the safety equipment on the fire truck and helicopter, which were brought onto the Speedway.

“They strapped the kids on to backboards with cervical collars so they’d see what would happen if they were injured,” Dr. Templeton says.

In addition to Dr. Templeton, a local trauma surgeon and a pediatric surgeon also participated in the event, as well as nurses from the clinic and the operating room at KUMC. The medical professionals talked to the kids about the types of injuries they see, demonstrated operating room equipment, and more.

“Drunk goggles” demonstrate impaired vision

A pair of “drunk goggles,” which simulate the way alcohol impairs vision, was very popular and demonstrated just how dangerous drinking and driving can be.

“The little kids got to put them on and then try to walk a straight line,” Dr. Templeton says. “The kids who were old enough to drive had the opportunity to try to drive a golf cart while wearing the goggles.”

Although volunteers from KUMC sat next to the young drivers on the golf cart to ensure their safety, “You had to make sure you stayed out of their way!” Dr. Templeton jokes.

A representative from the local railway also took part in the event, sharing some tips on railroad safety, discussing the hazards of driving near trains, and warning against driving around railroad signals.

An instructor from the professional competitive driving school on site that day joined the group as well. He demonstrated the safety features of race cars, correlating them to the safety features the teens should be using in their own cars and the need for safety on the roadways.

One of the most effective speakers was Reuben Bechtold—a patient of Dr. Templeton’s who came to talk about his own experience with road injuries. Bechtold recently lost a leg in a motor vehicle accident.

“He’d just obtained a prosthesis the week before, so he pulled up his pants leg and showed it to everyone, and talked about what he’d been through,” recalls Dr. Templeton. “He seemed to have a strong impact on many of the kids.”

“The message got across”

Although she didn’t have an exact tally, Dr. Templeton says she was pleased with the turnout at the event.

“I think the message got across,” she says. “We’re planning to do it again next year. Several people who were involved as speakers and attendees requested that we hold it again, and some even asked to be on an organizing committee so they could give their input.”

Organize your own event

Dr. Templeton strongly encourages other orthopaedic surgeons to organize similar events in their own communities to coincide with next October’s National Awareness Week.

“The key is trying to find people with whom to collaborate,” she says. “I did this primarily as a Bone and Joint Decade activity, so I recruited people from organizations that had signed on to the Decade. It’s important to be as all-inclusive as possible and get other organizations and volunteers involved.”

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