The man made epidemic of road traffic accidents

 Wednesday, 28 December 2022 | Dr BKS Sanjay & Dr Gaurav Sanjay


 Dr BKS n Gaurav Dr BKS Sanjay & Dr Gaurav Sanjay

The great epidemics in the past were infections like small pox, plague, cholera, yellow fever, influenza and others with a devastating impact on human life, wreaking havoc and long term effects on social and economic development.Today, these have largely been replaced by new epidemics like road traffic accidents and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, alcoholism and smoking etc.

Road traffic accidents are a man-made epidemic, threatening the already over stressed health systems around the world and causing a disproportionate devastation of the livelihood of all- especially the most vulnerable individuals and the developing countries.There is an urgent need to have a resilient and robust health system to protect them.

There is great need for raising awareness to prevent road traffic accidents and even if these accidents happen then there is an urgent need to provide affordable transportation in the golden hour to reach the nearby hospitals which are easily accessible and have affordable treatment for all, particularly for the poor and vulnerable. The inter-disciplinary cooperation among police, local administration, hospital managers, health care workers, patients and their relatives is paramount to deal with such an epidemic.There is a need for a nodal agency which can play a pivotal role and coordinate with all these individuals and agencies. We need to recognise the primary role of regional transport offices where driving licences are issued, traffic police who control the traffic on the roads and the hospital health care workers who treat the patient with the help of various specialists and non-medical specialists in the hospital. The results of any surgery or treatment in case of a road traffic accident should be judged only after considering the pre-injury status of an individual. This should be assessed in terms of economic, social, mental and psychological status and ultimately the physical activities which he or she was doing before the accident.  International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.The United Nations General Assembly designated December 27 as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness in its resolution on Dec 7, 2020. The commonly asked question is- what is meant by epidemic preparedness? It is defined as a country’s sustained investment on prioritisation of the preparedness for disease threats and readiness to act, when an outbreak strike can fundamentally alter the trajectory of an epidemic and determine the number of lives, jobs and money saved. Society at large is in dire need of more awareness, exchange of scientific knowledge of information which can serve as effective measures to protect against epidemic and response to their emergence. In our opinion, road traffic accidents should have been declared as an epidemic by the health authorities all over the world, particularly by the WHO, because road traffic accidents are taking a heavy toll on earning members of the society which is wreaking havoc in the society. In other epidemics like Covid-19 pandemic, the fatalities are mainly the geriatric age group which is usually sedentary and has multiple comorbidities. However, people who usually meet with accidents and are injured or killed are young, healthy and productive. In comparison to the Covid deaths, two-thirds of road traffic accident deaths in India are reported in the age group of 15-44 years which is the prime age for any individual according to the usual parameters. Road traffic accidents cause immense loss to the family, society and ultimately to the nation.

We believe human resource is the greatest resource on earth and we should all collectively take care of it particularly as we follow the dictum of “vasudhaiv kutumbakam”which means that the world is one family. Any physical loss of an individual is not only the loss of an individual but a loss to the whole of mankind. It should not only be the duty but the responsibility of all governments, non-governmental organisations and other social organisations to prevent such an epidemic and to ascertain how to deal with it efficiently and effectively so that we can save the greatest resource in the world- the individual human. 

The medical dictionary defines a pandemic as a disease which spreads throughout the whole country or the world, affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population. Road accidents killed 1.55 lakh individuals in India in 2021 which is the highest death figure recorded in any calendar year so far, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Besides the deaths, 3.7 lakh people were also injured in 4.03 lakh road accidents across the country. While the number of deaths has reached its peak, the number of road accidents and persons injured has come down compared to the previous year. A research conducted by us revealed that 90 per cent of the traffic accidents occurred due to the drivers’ negligence. This is a behavioural problem which should be tackled to prevent the menace of road traffic accidents. Our country has about one per cent of vehicles in the world but it has 11 per cent of the total accidents. If we want to reduce the number of accidents then we have to first reduce the number of vehicles and simultaneously invest to develop an efficient mass public transportation.

The golden hour is a crucial period for an injured patient to have immediate attention. If he reaches a well-equipped hospital within the first hour of injury, then his chances of survival can increase many folds. To achieve the goal to reach the hospital within the golden hour, there is need for an immediate transportation of the patient and accessibility to well-equipped hospital where all super specialty services are available. It is suggested that there should be a provision of a well-equipped trauma center at the intervening distance of 50 to 100 kilometres on all existing and proposed highways and expressways.

We all should always remember and remind others that prevention is better than cure. A national programme should be launched to spread awareness in general public about road safety. The public should learn and follow, and the government should educate and enforce traffic rules. 

(Padma Shri recipient Dr BKS Sanjay and Dr Gaurav Sanjay are orthopaedic surgeons based in Dehradun. Views expressed are personal)

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