When you get a new driver’s license or renew your existing ID, you fill out an application at the DMV, which contains important information about your personal identity. You are asked to note your height, weight and eye color and then pose for your picture. However, many drivers overlook one very important box on their license application — the choice to register as an organ donor. But even if you don’t check the box initially, there are still options to register after the fact, including online registration.
Almost every driver in the United States is required to carry car insurance, which is important in the event of a collision. It protects your legal and financial responsibilities if you hit another driver and they get injured or their vehicle sustains damage. However, few drivers consider what might happen if they lost their life in a fatal crash. It is hard to imagine being in such a situation, but registering as an organ donor can allow you to save someone’s life if you were to die in a car accident.
Table of contents
- How many car accidents are fatal?
- How does organ donation help save lives?
- 8 Myths about organ donation
- How to register as an organ donor
- Alternatives to organ donation
Fatal auto collisions
In 2019, there were an estimated 6,756,000 car accidents in the United States. Many car accidents are minor, like fender benders or parking lot collisions. However, serious car accidents can also happen. Out of the total number of accidents in 2019, 36,096 accidents involved fatalities.
Although it is difficult to think about, every driver is at risk of potentially getting into a fatal car accident. In fact, data from the CDC shows that traffic accidents are a leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1-54. Worldwide, more people die in car accidents than from HIV/AIDS.
While fatal accidents are incredibly tragic, checking the organ donor box on your driver’s license application gives you a chance to potentially save someone’s life who is waiting for an organ donation. It can provide peace of mind knowing that if the unthinkable happens, you might be able to give life to someone in need.
How organ donors help
Registering as an organ donor is not required, but could be extremely meaningful for those it offers an organ match to. Becoming an organ donor means you could potentially give someone else a chance to survive a critical illness, like heart disease or kidney failure.
Many drivers struggle with the idea of becoming an organ donor because it puts their own mortality into perspective. There are also a number of misconceptions around becoming an organ donor. If you are thinking of becoming one, here are some of the things you should know.
Understand the facts
When someone needs an organ transplant, it can sometimes take years to find a match. Unfortunately, most people battling serious illnesses do not have much time to wait for a donor. Here are some of the facts around organ donation:
- On average, roughly 36,000 Americans receive a life-saving transplant every year.
- Every day, about 17 people die waiting for an organ transplant.
- There are more than 106,000 people of all ages on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
- A single organ donor can save up to eight lives.
- Every nine minutes, a new man, woman or child is added to the transplant waiting list.
- Kidneys are the most needed organ donation, followed by livers, hearts and lungs.
- 39,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States in 2020.
- Just about every major religion is accepting of organ donation.
Many people have heard myths about organ donation, which can make them hesitant to join the donor registry. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about organ donation:
- There are enough organ donors already.
- You can only donate organs to family members.
- Wealthy individuals and celebrities get priority on waiting lists over everyday people.
- You cannot have an open casket funeral if your organs are donated.
- Becoming an organ donor will cost your family money when you pass away.
- You have to be young in order to become an organ donor.
- Organ donors are not given life savings measures if they are in serious accident.
- You can only register as an organ donor when you get or renew your driver’s license.
How to register state by state
The process of registering as an organ donor is extremely easy and does not require any medical history of physical examination. There are several ways that you can complete the registration process.
Register at the DMV
When you first get your driver’s license at the DMV, you can register as an organ donor. On the license application form, you simply check the box indicating that you would like to become a registered donor. When you receive your new driver’s license, it will have a small heart on the front, indicating your status as an organ donor.
How else can I register?
If you already have a driver’s license or a state ID, you could register as an organ donor online. When you register online, you are also given the option to choose which organs you wish to donate. You could also designate yourself as a tissue donor.
Most states have their own organ donor registry. The table below includes a link for the organ donor registration page in all 50 states:
Other ways to give back
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of becoming an organ donor, there are other ways that you can give back to your community and help people in need. Here are some alternatives:
- Become a living organ donor: Signing up to become a living donor could allow you to provide organs and body tissues to loved ones or others in need of a transplant. Living donors can donate kidneys, parts of their liver and parts of their lungs, as well as skin and bone.
- Give blood: Data from the Red Cross shows that every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood and or platelets. Donating blood is an effective way to help people in need, and you can do it on your own time.
- Raise money for health organizations: If you would prefer to donate money, many important health organizations accept charitable donations to support the work they do and to help more people get access to life-saving treatments.
- Volunteer at a local hospital: Many hospitals look for volunteers, and you do not necessarily need to have medical experience. You may be able to greet patients, oversee waiting rooms and deliver comfort items to patients recovering from procedures.
- Become a plasma donor: If you qualify, consider donating plasma, which is similar to the process of giving blood. Plasma transfusions are used to treat a number of conditions, including cancer, autoimmune disease and severe burns.