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Nine serious injuries occur on Irish roads for every road death

More focus is needed on ‘forgotten victims’ of road collisions, says expert


The highest instances of serious injuries among vulnerable road users occur on urban roads

The highest instances of serious injuries among vulnerable road users occur on urban roads

The highest instances of serious injuries among vulnerable road users occur on urban roads

Not everyone who survives a crash goes back to living the life they led before the collision.

For some survivors of road traffic collisions, that is their new reality.

The conversation over the years around the impact of road collisions has tended to centre on road fatalities, and serious injuries are often forgotten.

We have made great progress in reducing deaths on Irish roads in recent years. Last year there were 136 road deaths, the lowest number since we began recording them in 1959. But data from 2017 to 2020 published by the Road Safety Authority last week revealed for every road death, nine serious injuries occurred on Irish roads.

Reducing deaths and serious injuries by 50pc over the next decade is one of the core targets of the new Government Road Safety Strategy. It’s also the first step towards Vision Zero, a commitment to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries by 2050.

The RSA recently hosted an academic lecture which brought together domestic and international experts to share their research on the topic of serious injuries. It provided an opportunity to drive discussion around serious injuries, and by listening to the latest research and insights, ensure we always deliver interventions that are informed by data and evidence from home and abroad.

The presentations painted a very stark picture in relation to the scale of the problem across Europe, and certainly added urgency to the targets outlined in the Road Safety Strategy.

For example, we heard from Dr Letty Aarts, Department Head at the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands. She talked about how three in four serious injury victims are not fully recovered from their road trauma after three years. European data also shows that up to one third of serious injury victims suffer from lifelong disabilities. On a global level, up to 50 million people annually suffer serious injuries resulting from road traffic collisions.

Since 1977, when we first began recording road traffic collision injuries in Ireland, 85,328 people have been seriously injured on Irish roads. To put this in perspective, the number of serious injuries is equivalent to the population of Galway.

Last year alone, 1,091 people suffered a serious injury because of a road traffic collision. That’s 1,091 families and groups of friends whose lives may be drastically changed forever.

RSA research presented at the lecture showed pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists accounted for over half of all serious injuries between 2017 and 2020. To break this down further, for every motorcyclist fatality, 10 motorcyclists were seriously injured. For every pedestrian fatality, eight pedestrians were seriously injured. For every cyclist fatality, 25 cyclists were seriously injured.

These numbers speak volumes. It is clear, and it is worrying, that vulnerable road users are most at risk from suffering serious injury.

Looking at the data in a different way, drivers (75pc) and passengers (73pc) are more likely to suffer serious injury on roads with a speed limit greater than 60km/h.

The highest instances of serious injuries among vulnerable road users – cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists – occur on urban roads, or roads where the speed limit is less than 60km/h.

Data presented by Professor Aine Carroll, Professor of Healthcare Integration at UCD, highlighted how three in four people injured in road traffic collisions and admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) suffered traumatic brain injury. But how does a serious injury impact the survivor? For some, it could mean living with an acquired brain injury, spinal injury, or the loss of a limb. It could mean a lifetime of surgeries and countless doctors’ appointments, not to mention the mental scars. We know there are many victims to this day who are still suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress because of a serious injury collision.

Behind every statistic is a real person and their family whose lives will be changed for a period, if not permanently. People who took pride in being able to support themselves and their families may end up unable to work or depending on long-term care. The full impact on individual lives, and on friends and family, is hard to calculate.

To acknowledge the importance of preventing and treating serious injuries from road traffic collisions, the Road Safety Strategy includes a dedicated priority intervention area for post-crash response. Implementing the actions within this priority intervention area will be critical to ensure we meet our 50pc reduction in serious injuries by 2030, as will the implementation of the trauma strategy ‘A Trauma System for Ireland’, which is a commitment of the 2020 Programme for Government.

The new government strategy for road safety in Ireland is to reduce serious injuries and fatalities by 50pc by 2030, through partnerships. Automotive manufacturers, distributors, insurers and drivers can play a significant, positive role to achieve this in our communities, working with Road Safety Authority, legislators and others.

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