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Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Janice Wants Your Attention

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time to come to terms with the fact that distracted driving now accounts for more than 400,000 accidents per year. Underscoring the impact of these accidents, the Brain Injury Alliance has unveiled a national program to increase awareness of the connection between vehicular accidents and brain injury.

Heading up this program is Drunk & Distracted Driving Survivor Advocate, Janice Podzimek, of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. Along with Wendy Hoffman from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Janice co-facilitates a weekly virtual group comprised solely of survivors of brain injury who have been impacted by drunk or distracted drivers. It’s part of her and the Alliance’s mission to increase awareness among drivers and emergency personnel to reduce the number of brain injuries.

For three decades, Janice has been finding resources for individuals impacted by brain injury, which can mean the difference between life and death.

Janice Wants Your Attention

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time to come to terms with the fact that distracted driving now accounts for more than 400,000 accidents per year. Underscoring the impact of these accidents, the Brain Injury Alliance has unveiled a national program to increase awareness of the connection between vehicular accidents and brain injury.

Heading up this program is Drunk & Distracted Driving Survivor Advocate, Janice Podzimek, of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. Along with Wendy Hoffman from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Janice co-facilitates a weekly virtual group comprised solely of survivors of brain injury who have been impacted by drunk or distracted drivers. It’s part of her and the Alliance’s mission to increase awareness among drivers and emergency personnel to reduce the number of brain injuries.

For three decades, Janice has been finding resources for individuals impacted by brain injury, which can mean the difference between life and death.

Janice’s compassion for all individuals with brain injury runs deep, but especially resonates with this group. She also emphasizes that these gatherings are only for those whose lives were impacted by other’s poor decisions. “Regardless of where they are in their recovery, the two things I hear most are, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ and ‘I want someone to be accountable.’ I understand their rage and frustration and want to make this a safe place to share opinions where they won’t be disrespected.”

She adds that, in addition to emotional support, this is a venue for discovering valuable resources. “It’s almost impossible for any survivor to do all of this alone.”

For three decades, Janice has been finding resources for individuals impacted by brain injury, which can mean the difference between life and death.

Earlier in her career, Janice worked at the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance (MNBIA) and volunteered at Tubman Shelters, where she collaborated with MNBIA to customize the HELPS tool for use in domestic violence shelters to screen for brain injury. It allowed her to build a great foundation for her current role as Interpersonal Violence Liaison at the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) where she continues to use her deep understanding to create solutions and often provides a personal touch.

“When your life is in upheaval due to removing yourself from a violent situation, there is a lot on your mind” Janice said.  “However, after you are safe, we want people to know it’s okay to take care of themselves and talk to someone about the possibility of brain injury.”

Many survivors of violence are focused on their day-to-day survival and not focused on their brain health. Studies have shown that in domestic violence situations 90% of the blows land on the face and the head.  The potential to affect the brain – permanently or temporarily is great.

“Throughout my career, I have been able to work with survivors of violence who don’t understand that things like choking or strangulation during an attack can cut of the supply of oxygen to the brain, causing a brain injury,” Janice says.  Her work with survivors has led to many aha! moments as the survivors learn about the possible brain injuries that could have occurred.

After relocating to Arizona, Janice started work at the Brain Injury Alliance as the Director of Survivor and Professional Programs, before identifying the need for specialized support for survivors of all types of violence and stepping into that role. 

Now, her focus is on the negligence of a drunk or distracted driver. She believes the answer lies in prevention and education.

“Drivers need to understand that there are three primary types of distraction,” she explains. “The first is visual, which could be anything from looking at your phone to turning to a passenger.”

The second is manual. “When you take your hands off the wheel to reach for your phone, eat, or adjusting mirrors. It’s no surprise that one out of every four vehicle accidents is caused by texting and driving.”

The third area is cognitive. “Sometimes, your mind just wanders, you argue with a passenger, or you simply react to your child or pet. In all these cases, drivers are vulnerable to getting into an accident, which can lead to brain injury.”

She also reaches out to emergency medical personnel. “Brain injuries aren’t as easy to diagnose as broken bones. However, a missed early diagnosis can lead to a lengthy and more difficult recovery.”

Symptoms may include loss of consciousness, amnesia, headache, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, nausea, drowsiness, poor balance, and difficulty concentrating.

Now that she has your attention, Janice wants all drivers to keep that attention…on the road. This is how we look out for each other.

The national Drunk & Distracted Driving Survivor Support Group meets via Zoom the last Friday of every month. The next meeting is Friday, April 28, beginning at 2:00pm (MST/PDT). Free to attend, but you must register here first. For more information, contact Janice at (888) 500-9165 or janice@biaaz.org

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Association of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

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