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Dr. Frank Ryan’s Death: What We Can Learn From It

I’ll be honest — I’d never heard of Dr. Frank Ryan, a Hollywood plastic surgeon, until his tragic motor vehicle accident recently. Clients included actress Heidi Montag and boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

Although the California Highway Patrol investigation isn’t complete, rumors have suggested that Dr. Ryan may have been text messaging when driving. If this is true and an intelligent, well-trained doctor can fall prey to the allure of technology, then what does it mean for the rest of us?

First, realize that we can’t multitask. You have one brain. You can focus at one task at a time. Though laws allow hands-free cellphone calls, the issue isn’t trying to dial the phone but rather that the mind is engaged in the conversation and not on the road. Yes, we are all increasingly busy, but we can’t multitask. In fact, researchers have found that it takes more time and effort to refocus when we are distracted from one task to the other.

So have a hard and fast rule. The cellphone is off when driving. You don’t need to answer phone calls when doing something important — that’s what voicemail is for. The FAA requires airline pilots to follow the sterile cockpit concept for flight under 10,000 feet when communications is restricted to essential communications. Failure to abide to this regulation was thought to play a role in the Continential Connection Airlines crash in Feburary 2009 near Buffalo, NY. 

It should be obvious that the same goes for text messaging.

Also, get a safe car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates cars annually for crashworthiness. Some reports indicated that Dr. Ryan was driving a 1995 Jeep Wrangler when it ran off the Pacific Coast Highway. For Jeep Wrangler years 1997 to 2006, the crashworthiness for frontal offset impact was deemed acceptable. There was no safety rating for roof integrity. There is no data for 1995.

All vehicles even built by the same manufacturer and same model can differ based on the year. Not all Jeep models received good or acceptable ratings for frontal offset impact. Both Cherokee and Grand Cherokee year 1997 to 2001 and 1996 to 2004 respectively received a marginal rating, just one step better than poor. However, the 2011 Grand Cherokee was rated a best pick for safety and received a good rating for frontal offset and roof integrity.

Obviously a Grand Cherokee isn’t quite as fun to drive in Malibu but may have been safer.

Clearly, Dr. Ryan died too early. Even though famous for his Hollywood clientle, he also did a lot of important charitable work for those who didn’t have as much. The fact that they won’t have his services in the future is the real tragedy.

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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