“In Other Words”…We Can Curb Pedestrian Traffic Injuries: Be Seen, Be Safe
Our Physician Spotlight this month features Scott A. Zenoni, MD, a trauma and acute-care surgeon at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center, the Space Coast’s only Level-II Trauma Center. He is board certified in Surgical Critical Care as well as General Surgery and serves as the Trauma Center’s EMS liaison.
He served in the US Marine Corps and is a combat veteran having been deployed during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. Before becoming a surgeon, he had an extensive career in emergency medical transport. Starting off first as an EMT and Paramedic, he then went on to acquire his degree as a Registered Nurse (RN). As a Paramedic/RN in the ER, he transitioned to the helicopter EMS team First Flight in 2004.
Zenoni then completed his Doctor of Medicine degree at Saint Matthews University School of Medicine in the Cayman Islands. He completed his General Surgery residency at Florida Hospital Orlando, followed by his fellowship in Surgical Critical Care at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Away from medicine, Scott is an avid outdoorsman and committed triathlete. Before becoming a doctor, he was a touring wakeboarding professional.
Earlier this year, he spoke about post-crash care at a symposium hosted by the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization. During this time, he became increasingly passionate about getting the crash numbers down in the state of Florida, and therefore, hospital trauma admissions. His goal is simple – if you are on the road as a bicyclist, runner or pedestrian and you wear a light, it could save your life. So, Be Seen, Be Safe.
The Be Seen, Be Safe campaign is about to launch, with Dr. Zenoni helping to provide lights to the community for public safety. Do not be surprised if you see him on a causeway or at your community park handing out lights in person. He’s also working on a community outreach program that will supply kids with bicycle helmets slated to begin this fall.
This month, in our forum, Zenoni writes about an issue he faces too often in his work as a trauma and acute-care surgeon.
"In Other Words"…..with Scott A. Zenoni, MD
Florida is No. 1 for pedestrian-versus-auto injuries and deaths. Orlando is the No.1 metro in the nation. As a trauma surgeon, I see the carnage – as a triathlete and a fellow Floridian, I care. My message is, wear lights and look out.
Pedestrian safety on the nation’s roadways is an issue, but in Florida, it’s downright alarming. A recent report ranked metros in the nation by the incidences per 100,000 people of pedestrian-versus-automobile injuries and fatalities. Orlando came in No. 1, followed by Bakersfield, California, and Memphis, Tennessee. My own home area of Brevard County is No. 4, followed by seven more Florida metros in the next nine spots. Why?
Like a lot of us living and working to make Florida great, I didn’t start out here. After high school, the call of year-round outdoors activities and watersports beckoned me. I became a touring wakeboard professional, then a paramedic and air transport nurse before medical school. Today, I’m a trauma surgeon and training triathlete. You might think I’m wondering, Why are so many Florida communities dangerous for pedestrians, runners and cyclists?
No. That question doesn’t send me far for answers. Our climate is perfect for walking. We attract athletes and families alike. We’re a top trip destination. At night, we go for a bite or a drink often by foot or bicycle. Sadly, drivers are more distracted than ever before.
Here on the Space Coast, our local newspaper reported distracted-driving crashes have soared 31 percent the past five years in Brevard County even as total crashes (including speeding, intoxication) are flat. Most of the deaths that resulted were of “vulnerable road users” – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Statewide, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows 70 percent of the hit-and-run crashes in 2021 killed non-drivers. These crashes, it found, were most frequent at night, dusk and dawn.
No, the question I’m asking is, what can be done? At Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center, the Level-II Trauma Center I call home, we preach preventive medicine. We had 99 bicycle and 88 pedestrian-versus-auto accidents out of 2,875 total patients last year. They arrive mostly at night or daybreak.
Let’s light non-motorists on our roadways at night. My awareness campaign, Be Seen, Be Safe, aims to change the culture around “vulnerable road users” during these crucial hours.
We must wear small lights before heading out to walk, run or cycle. I run and cycle with a solid LED white light clipped to my front, almost like a headlight, and a blinking red light clipped to my back, simulating a brake light.
There are three parts to this.
Be Seen, … Wear a light as well as reflective and bright clothing
Be Safe, ... Walk, run and ride defensively. Keep your eyes off your phone. Don’t expect cars to see or stop.
Consider the available light: If there’s no streetlamps, or there is fog – steer clear of road shoulders.
As clinicians and healthcare leaders in our community, we must speak up about distracted driving, for sure. But we want to move the needle on pedestrian-versus-auto accidents, so we must also push pedestrians and athletes to do a better job of being seen at night.
Common, clip-on LEDs are the bicycle helmets of our moment. Bicyclists, runners, even walkers should get in the habit of clipping lights on the front and on the back of the body. These LEDs are bright, affordable and last a long time (many are rechargeable).
I commute 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 running and walking with no lights on who I don’t notice until I pass them.
Kaitlin Donner, who coaches a lot of distance athletes in the area and co-owns New Wave Physical Therapy in Rockledge, told me, “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.”
In the trauma department, the pedestrian-versus-auto injuries we see aren’t often fatal. But these patients have devastating traumatic brain and musculoskeletal injuries that leave them debilitated for life. It costs billions of dollars annually to treat these patients once they make it to rehab.
As a department, we preach preventive medicine. Distracted drivers are dangerous to everyone on our roadways – themselves included – but the shortest distance to slashing the number of pedestrian-versus-auto accidents must be made by pedestrians and athletes. Let’s do better. Let’s Be Seen and Be Safe.