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Road traffic fatalities: a global health burden

APROXIMATELY 1,4 million lives are lost in road traffic accidents each year across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

And between 20 and 50 million people frequently suffer non-fatal injuries, with a significant number incurring disabilities from the resultant injuries.

More than half of all road traffic deaths are mostly among the vulnerable road users. The vulnerable commonly include pedestrians and cyclists.

Economically, road traffic accidents cost most countries nearly 3 percent of their gross domestic product annually.

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In fact, road traffic injuries considerably cause economic losses to individuals, families and nations.

Generally, losses arise from the cost of treatment and lost productivity.

And family members who probably need time off work or school to care for the injured.

According to research, more than 90 percent of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Apparently, Africa has the highest number of road traffic injury deaths.

This is widely attributed to a myriad of agency-structural challenges.

In 2018, road traffic accidents deaths in Zimbabwe reached 7 667, or 6,46 percent of total deaths.

In high-income countries, people from low socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes.

Demographically, those aged between five and 29 years potentially risk death from road traffic fatalities.

And from a gender perspective, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents than females.

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Accordingly, 73 percent of all road traffic deaths generally occur among young males under 25.

The global health burden of road traffic fatalities is widely attributed to a plethora of behavioural and structural factors.

Speeding

Typically, an increase in the average speed enhances the likelihood of an accident. And correspondingly, the severity of the crash is consequently related to the level of speed.

Alcohol and other psycho-active substances

Naturally, alcohol and substance abuse dangerously impair the judgement of road users.

In cases of drink-driving, the risk of road traffic accident increases significantly when the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration is more than 0,04 grammes per decilitre.

And in drug-driving, the risk of incurring a road traffic crash potentially increase to differing degrees depending on the psycho-active drug (ab)used.

Distracted driving

Apparently, the distraction caused by mobile phones has been widely observed as a growing concern for road safety.

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Drivers using phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers not using a mobile phone.

Unsafe road infrastructure

Ideally, roads should be designed in a manner that ensures the safety of all road users. Road designs can considerably impact on the safety of all road users.

Essentially, there must be adequate facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. These facilities commonly include well-marked footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other remedial measures.

Unsafe vehicles

Critically, safe vehicles play an important role in averting crashes and reducing the likelihood of fatalities.

And if the United Nations regulations on vehicle safety are applied to countries manufacturing and production standards, they will potentially save many lives.

More importantly, ensuring that airbags, electronic stability control, and seat-belts are well fitted remains a top priority.

Inadequate post-crash care

Regrettably, delays in detecting and providing care for the injured potentially increase fatalities. Actually, delays of minutes can make the difference between life and death.

Improving post-accident care entails timely access to pre-hospital and hospital care. As such, specialist post-crash training programmes must be initiated to reduce road traffic fatalities.

Inadequate enforcement of traffic laws

Unfortunately, the perceived inadequate enforcement of traffic laws on drink-driving, seat-belt wearing, speed limits, helmets and child restraints potentially increase road traffic fatalities.

And if traffic laws are perceived as not being enforced, it is more likely that they will not be complied with.

As such, the chance of limiting errant behaviour becomes very little.

Effective enforcement entails establishing, regularly updating and enforcing traffic laws at all societal levels to address risk factors.

Henceforth, governments must seriously take action to address road safety in a holistic manner.

And multiple sectors such as the transport, police, health, education and road users must all be involved.

In fact, effective interventions must specifically include designing safe road infrastructure, improving the safety of vehicles, improving post-crash care, enforcing traffic laws and raising public awareness.

The world must be equally wary of the Covid-19 global health burden as the novel and highly transmissible strains have since been scientifically screened.

To this end, protect your loved ones by wearing a mask in public, washing hands with soap and water, and practising social distancing.

Everisto Mapfidze is a registered general nurse who holds a Bsc Honours in Sociology (UZ). For feedback: mapfidzee@gmail.com  or Whatsapp 263774042111

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