Saturday 7 December 2019

Seriously injured learn to 'live again'

Imagine not knowing if you'll ever walk again - RSA expert

The RSA has been working closely with the hospitals, the HSE and the gardai to get better access to collision data.
The RSA has been working closely with the hospitals, the HSE and the gardai to get better access to collision data.

What would you define as a serious injury? For a sportsperson, it might be a torn ligament or broken bone. For a surgeon, it might be a broken finger, preventing them from doing life-saving work.

For someone seriously injured in a car crash, it could be broken bones, a serious brain injury, paralysis or losing the ability to do the basic things we all take for granted.

'Learning how to live again' - that's how one survivor put it to me once. Think about that for a minute. Imagine spending weeks or months in a hospital recovering from a collision, not knowing if you will ever walk again, if you'll ever go back to work, have a family, or kick a ball in the park with your children.

Imagine being told you have a brain injury which means you probably won't be able to do things on your own and will require care and support for the rest of your life. Or that you've lost the use of your legs and will need to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair.

Siobhán O'Brien suffered serious, life-changing injuries following a collision in 2001. She features in the RSA's 'Crashed Lives' campaign. She says:"It's like part of me died that day."

An average of 400 to 500 people are seriously injured in road collisions in Ireland each year. Almost 3,000 suffer a minor injury. To put this in context, 166 people lost their lives on our roads last year. Almost three times that number are still alive but living a completely different life to what they had planned or hoped for.

The Government's Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020 aims to make us one of the safest countries in the EU in terms of road fatalities and injuries. As such, the current strategy prioritises measures to not only reduce collisions and fatalities but also the number and severity of serious injuries arising from road collisions. To put figures on this, we are aiming to reduce the number of deaths on our roads annually to 124 by the year 2020, and the number of serious injuries to 330.

To do so, we are working on getting a more complete picture of the number, type and severity of serious injuries on our roads every year. The RSA has been working closely with the hospitals, the HSE and the gardai to get better access to collision data and work is progressing well on this.

It's sad but true that we often forget about the people who are seriously injured. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because death is final and therefore more tragic. But for many, a serious injury can be just as devastating.

The Road Safety Authority's vision is that no-one is killed or seriously injured on our roads, and every intervention we make is with that sole purpose and ambition in mind. And it will take time and effort and commitment.

At the same time, I think it is significant that in just over a decade, we have collectively reduced deaths on our roads by more than 60pc, saving hundreds of lives in that time.

I think it's important that we who work in road safety acknowledge that small changes in behaviour lead to lives saved and injuries prevented.

We all play an important role in road safety, so let's work together to reduce deaths and serious injuries.

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