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Road traffic accidents take a toll

DELHI, INDIA - JULY 5, 2016: Heavy road traffic in the city center of Delhi, India. Buses and construction nearby the road. Various shops, cafes, restaurants
Road traffic in Delhi.

Research published at the end of last year spotlighted the leading cause of premature mortality among young men in India: road traffic accidents. 

In 2017, 2.2 lakh Indians lost their lives due to injuries sustained on the country’s roads. Males accounted for the overwhelming majority of such fatalities, with 77 percent of road traffic accident deaths being accounted for by men. For men in the fifteen to 39 age demographic, road traffic accidents led as the cause of premature mortality: for both sexes, these incidents were the second leading cause. 

The research was published in The Lancet Public Health, jointly conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Motorcyclists and pedestrians accounted for more than half of road traffic accident deaths, the research indicated – a higher proportion compared to the global average. However, the mortality rate among groups such as vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and cyclists varied significantly between states with a fourfold to eightfold variance. In males, the highest rates were observed in Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. In females, rates were highest in Jharkhand, Manipur, and Punjab. 

“Rapid urbanisation and economic growth in India have led to an increase in vehicle and traffic but the infrastructure levels are still struggling to keep pace with it, resulting in an increased number of road injury deaths,” commented the study’s lead author Professor Rakhi Dandona of the PHFI. 

Of the action needed, Dandona said “road injury needs multi-sectoral action across three levels – to prevent crashes from occurring, to prevent injury if a crash occurs, and then to prevent death or disability among those injured. For this to happen, we need to move from the fatalistic attitude conveyed by ‘accident’ to prevent the needless loss of lives. Road safety for pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists needs to be prioritised to ensure that the youth of our country do not face untimely death.” 

At the global level, road traffic accidents kill 1.3 million people and injure as many as fifty million annually. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets called for halving deaths and injuries due to road traffic accidents by 2020, in addition to improving road safety. “Road injury highly impacts economic and societal burden. Deaths from road injuries are preventable with stringent implementation of laws and policies by the government,” commented Professor Vinod K. Paul of Niti Aayog. 

However, he said, “if the estimated trends of road injury deaths up to 2017 continue, no state in India is likely to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2020 target of reducing the road injury deaths by half…even by 2030.” 

India’s high burden of road traffic accident injuries and deaths also highlights the need for improved trauma care in the country, especially in terms of delivering treatment in the “golden hour” after an incident wherein an intervention is needed in order to improve patient outcomes. Entering 2020, the need of the hour is prevention of road traffic accidents and the guarantee of timely treatment in order to reduce fatalities and improve the quality of life of those involved in such instances.

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