Approximately 1.3 million people lose their lives in automobile accidents which resulted to road traffic injuries each year. An estimated 20 to 50 million additional individuals sustain non-fatal injuries each year, many of which end in a disability.
Significant financial damages are incurred by victims of road accidents, their families, and entire countries. These losses result from the expense of medical care, lost wages for individuals who are killed or rendered unable of working, and lost productivity for family members who must miss work or school in order to care for the injured. Most nations lose 3% of their gross domestic product to road accidents.
What Is Road Traffic Injuries
Road traffic injuries refer to harm or damage caused by road accidents involving vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, and other road users. These injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to severe and life-threatening conditions, including fractures, head injuries, and fatalities.
Who Is At Risk
According to WHO (World Health Organization), more than 90% of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Road traffic injury death rates are highest in the African region and lowest in the European region. Even within high-income countries, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes.
It is also on record that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years. From a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. About three quarters (73%) of all road traffic deaths occur among young males under the age of 25 years who are almost 3 times as likely to be killed in a road traffic crash as young females.
Some risk factors contributes to road traffic injuries, they are;
Human Error: Ensuring a safe transportation system for all road users is the goal of the safe system approach to road safety. This method acknowledges that individuals are more susceptible to severe injuries in car accidents and that human error should be accommodated in the system’s design. To eliminate fatal crashes and limit serious injuries, this approach’s foundations are safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and safe road users. All of these issues must be addressed.
Speeding: An increase in average speed is closely correlated with the probability of a crash happening as well as the seriousness of the crash’s effects. For instance, there is a 4% increase in the probability of a fatal crash and a 3% rise in the risk of a major crash for every 1% increase in mean speed. When a pedestrian is struck by an automobile front, their chance of dying increases quickly (4.5 times from 50 km/h to 65 km/h). At 65 km/h, the likelihood of death for car occupants in car-to-car collisions is 85%.
Road Environment: Poor road conditions, lack of proper signage, inadequate lighting, and poorly designed intersections can contribute to accidents.
Driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances: Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and other psychotropic substances or drugs raises the possibility of an accident leading to fatalities or severe injuries. When a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 g/dl or more, the chance of a traffic accident increases dramatically. This danger exists even at low BAC levels.
Depending on the psychoactive drug used, there are varying degrees of increased risk of a traffic crash when driving under the influence. Amphetamine users, for instance, are approximately five times more likely to experience a fatal crash than non-users.
Nonuse of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints: Correct helmet use can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduction in the risk of head injuries.
Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among drivers and front seat occupants by 45 – 50%, and the risk of death and serious injuries among rear seat occupants by 25%. The use of child restraints can lead to a 60% reduction in deaths.
Weather Conditions: Adverse weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or fog, can reduce visibility and road traction, leading to an increased risk of accidents.
Distracted driving: There are many types of distractions that can lead to impaired driving. The distraction caused by mobile phones is a growing concern for road safety.
Drivers using mobile phones are approximately 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone. Using a phone while driving slows reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances.
Hands-free phones are not much safer than hand-held phone sets, and texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.
Unsafe road infrastructure: The design of roads can have a considerable impact on their safety. Ideally, roads should be designed keeping in mind the safety of all road users. This would mean making sure that there are adequate facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Measures such as footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other traffic calming measures can be critical to reducing the risk of injury among these road users.
Unsafe vehicles: Safe vehicles play a critical role in averting crashes and reducing the likelihood of serious injury. There are a number of UN regulations on vehicle safety that, if applied to countries’ manufacturing and production standards, would potentially save many lives. These include requiring vehicle manufacturers to meet front and side impact regulations, to include electronic stability control (to prevent over-steering) and to ensure airbags and seat-belts are fitted in all vehicles. Without these basic standards the risk of traffic injuries – both to those in the vehicle and those out of it – is considerably increased.
Inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws: If traffic laws on drink-driving, seat-belt wearing, speed limits, helmets, and child restraints are not enforced, they cannot bring about the expected reduction in road traffic fatalities and injuries related to specific behaviours. Thus, if traffic laws are not enforced or are perceived as not being enforced, it is likely they will not be complied with and therefore will have very little chance of influencing behaviour.
Effective enforcement includes establishing, regularly updating, and enforcing laws at the national, municipal, and local levels that address the above mentioned risk factors. It includes also the definition of appropriate penalties.
Preventing Road Traffic Injuries
Injury from automobile accidents can be avoided. To address traffic safety comprehensively, governments must intervene. This calls for cooperation from a number of agencies, including the police, transportation, health, and education sectors as well as initiatives that deal with road, vehicle, and user safety.
Creating safer infrastructure and integrating road safety elements into land-use and transportation planning, enhancing vehicle safety features, improving post-crash care for victims of traffic accidents, establishing and enforcing laws pertaining to critical risks, and increasing public awareness are all examples of effective interventions.
Tips For Prevention
Certainly! Here are 10 tips to help prevent road traffic injuries:
1. Obey speed limits, traffic signals, and road signs. Adhering to traffic rules reduces the risk of accidents and helps maintain order on the roads.
2. Stay focused while driving. Avoid activities such as texting, talking on the phone, or any other distractions that can take your attention away from the road.
3. Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination. Always designate a sober driver if you’ve been drinking, or use alternative transportation like taxis or rideshare services.
4. Ensure that everyone in the vehicle wears a seat belt at all times. Seat belts significantly reduce the risk of injury in the event of a collision.
5. Motorcyclists and bicyclists should always wear helmets. Helmets provide crucial protection against head injuries in the event of an accident.
6. Pedestrians and cyclists should wear bright or reflective clothing, especially during low-light conditions. This enhances visibility and reduces the chances of collisions.
7. Regularly check and maintain your vehicle. Ensure that brakes, tires, lights, and other essential components are in good working condition to prevent mechanical failures.
8. Adjust your driving behavior according to weather conditions. Slow down in adverse weather, maintain a safe following distance, and use headlights when visibility is reduced.
9. Ensure that you are well-rested before driving, especially during long journeys. Fatigue can impair reaction times and decision-making.
10. Keep yourself informed about updated traffic laws and safety measures. Attend driver education programs, and encourage others, especially young drivers, to do the same.
In addition to community and governmental initiatives, encouraging a driving culture that is safe and responsible requires personal accountability. By implementing these suggestions and motivating others to follow suit, you help make roadways safer for everybody.