Impact of risky behaviour of drivers on commuters

Sunday, 07 April 2024 | in Guest Column

Dr BKS n Gaurav

The World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948 and to draw attention to a specific health topic of concern. The theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’.

Lifestyle problems have become prevalent in India and have brought many health issues. Common health problems related to lifestyle changes in India include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, hyper cholesterolaemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) etc. Lifestyle is also being blamed as one of the causes of cancer. Being orthopaedic surgeons, we feel that a number of road traffic accidents also seem to be caused by lifestyle changes in India.

Lifestyle is defined as the typical way of living. It is understood as a type of personality which is guided by individual values and principles focused on individual behaviour. Many things related to individuals are effective with his or her lifestyle- healthy or unhealthy- which most likely will be transmitted across generations. Here, we would like to cite the example of drinking tea in the morning and alcohol at night which are the two glaring examples of healthy and unhealthy lifestyles. Similar are the habits of smoking and chewing tobacco in the low-income group and eating fruits and vegetables in the high-income group. As the nation is growing economically, so are its people. People are not only eating better food but also eating more than required. Eating more and having less physical activity are the main culprits behind weight gain. As weight increases so do the chances of developing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hyper cholesterolaemia and heart attack. Obesity should be considered the precursor of all these health issues.

We will focus mainly on the orthopaedic problem and mainly on road traffic accidents. According to WHO 2020 report, road traffic accidents in India are the sixth leading cause of death. Road traffic accidents are preventable provided all road users follow the stipulated traffic rules. Over speeding, overtaking, drinking and driving, using a mobile phone, not wearing a seat belt or helmet and deliberately breaking the traffic rules are the main causes of road traffic accidents and these all are risky behaviour. In our view, it is not drinking alone but binge drinking which is the main reason for accidents especially after late night parties. In our clinical research study, it was revealed that 90 per cent of the accidents are caused due to driver’s negligence. Drunken driving and substance abuse problems are considered to be lifestyle problems especially in the younger generation. In a recent road traffic accidents report, it was found that drunk driving causes 50 per cent of road traffic accidents and 20 per cent of all road fatalities. Nowadays, the consumption of alcohol during any celebration has become a norm in our country, particular in elite society. We are not sure whether it is a perception or reality that drunken driving is common in mountain States like Uttarakhand. Anyway, the frequent screening of all drivers with breath analyser can be a simple and an effective tool to prevent the menace of drunken driving.

Multitasking has become a new lifestyle that means people are doing multiple tasks at a time. It has been proved scientifically that the efficiency and perfection of a multitasking individual gets reduced in all tasks compared to a person who does a single task at a time.

Road accident happen in a fraction of a second.  Using mobile phones while driving causes distraction, which increases chances of accidents and severity of fatalities. Up to 40 per cent fatalities are reported if accidents happen when using mobile phones while driving. We feel it has become a habitual aspect particularly in the younger generation to open the mobile phone frequently to check social media even while driving. According to a WHO study, around 80 per cent of accidents all around the world occurred due to the driver or pedestrian using the mobile phone especially while crossing the road or parking the vehicle. There is a significant relation between lifestyle and risky behaviour of the driver or rider. In our opinion, the influence of alcohol and lack of sleep are also major factors causing accidents. In certain cultures, alcohol is used as a therapy or a tool to relieve stress and fatigue. In fact, it does mask the body’s fatigue to a certain extent. Alcohol not only relaxes the body but also the brain. The combination of fatigue and consumption of alcohol leads to narcolepsy, loss of cognition while driving and increased chances of accidents especially during the night.

We would like to cite an incident which occurred some years back on the Mussoorie-Dehradun road. A bus loaded with 41 businessmen of Haridwar was returning from Mussoorie on the night of January 5, 2011. At around 8:30 PM, the bus went out of control on the outskirts of Dehradun and fell into a ditch. The bus driver had jumped and fled before the accident. Out of 41 businessmen, 22 died on the spot and the remaining 19 were grievously injured. It was reported that the driver had an argument with the businessmen on some issue. He jumped from the moving bus which then fell into the ditch. The driver was intoxicated and escaped from the spot. In June 2014, the court sentenced the accused bus driver to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs one lakh. It was proved in the court that the driver had deliberately dropped the bus into the ditch after an argument.

Lifestyle includes a large number of variants of risky behaviour and motor vehicle accidents. The impact of the risky behaviour of the drivers of the public transport buses and two wheelers affects mainly the poor because they are the ones who travel the most in such buses. It is necessary for all of us to spread awareness on preventing these accidents because they have taken the form of an epidemic. If something is not done it is bound to get out of control.

(The authors are orthopaedic surgeons based in Dehradun. The views expressed are personal)

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