How Do We Save Our Young People From Untimely Road Injury Deaths?

How can we ensure we meet road safety targets and safe the lives of our vulnerable population? 

Health News
3 min read

(World Trauma Day is held on October 17 every year to highlight the increasing rate of accidents and injuries causing death and disability. FIT is republishing this article to highlight the need to prevent road accidents.)

“One of the main things I want to start with is the difference between accident and road injury,” says Professor Rakhi Dandona from the Public Health Foundation of India. Dandona is also the lead author of the ICMR-WHO published paper on Population-Level Estimates of Road Industry Deaths State-Wise in India.

Speaking to FIT, Prof Dandona, talks about road safety interventions that need to go beyond awareness-raising, “it has to be multi-sectoral with stronger law enforcement and health systems.”

She began by arguing that the lexicon had to change - we need to start using more fitting words to change our mindsets about road safety. “An accident implies something inevitable - but road crash or road injury conveys that we can prevent this. We start with this shift in attitudes.”

Key Findings from the Report

“We are harming our young, working population with bad road safety - and one death is an incomplete figure of the loss. It is usually the breadwinner that is affected, so the entire family is hurt,” says Prof Dandona.

Death by road accident is an economic and social burden. Prof K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India said, “Road traffic injuries are an entirely man-made epidemic which should be eliminated through a mix of good public administration for providing better roads with good lighting, strong laws and regulations with strict enforcement and penalties for violations, public education on safe practices and sane civic conduct.”

But before we dive into solutions, we need a holistic and systematic understanding of the problem. What are the main risk factors? Who are the most vulnerable groups affected that need to be targeted first? What state-specific action can be taken?

This paper aimed to fill this knowledge gap, and here are some key findings:

  • In 2017, India had 2,2 lakh road injury deaths, making it the leading cause of premature death among young males.
  • 77% of young males died from road accidents, three times as much as females.
  • Older people died more from pedestrian road injury deaths.
  • The motorcyclist and cyclist road injury death rate was 69% and 33% respectively higher in India as compared to world figures.
  • The road traffic death rate was slightly higher in less developed states
  • Road Injury death rate in males varied 3 fold across the states of India with the highest rates in the states of Uttarakhand, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The variations between the states for road injury death rates among the different types of road users were even higher at 4-8 fold.  The highest road injury death rates among females were in the states of Manipur, Jharkhand and Punjab.

The Solutions:

The report revealed that India’s contribution to the global road injury death rate is increasing, and there is imminent need for “evidence-based road safety interventions, promote strong policies and traffic law enforcement, have better road and vehicle design, and improve care for road injuries at the state level to meet the SDG goals.”

For the road safety policies of each state, this report details the data by age, sex and type f road user to properly plan relevant interventions and target those most in need.

This report has worked on improving the quality of comprehensive data on the problem available, and some solutions that have arisen from this are:

  • Focus on two-wheelers and pedestrians
  • Enforcing strong policies and law enforcement
  • Enhancing health systems to deal with traffic injuries

The paper suggested a multi-sectoral approach as Prof Dandona added, “Just awareness raising is not enough, we need to look at this problem holistically.”

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