By Samuel Hinneh, Wellington, New Zealand (Courtesy: WHO/Internews Fellowship Programme)

Road crash fatalities are threatening the survival of mankind, given the large of number of people dying as a result of road traffic accident. ?According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every five seconds someone in the world dies as a result of an injury.? More significantly, more than 1.2 million people who use roads die globally every year, and as many as 50 million people sustain injuries.

The effects of road crash are enormous.? Apart from the sufferings ?victims bear, road traffic accident also has a huge burden on family by driving the family into poverty as survivors of road crash and family members struggle to cope with the long consequences of the event, including medical and rehabilitation costs, funeral expenses as well as the loss of a breadwinner of the family.

Experts in road safety at the Safety 2012 World Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, believe that to effectively tackle the situation head-on demands better implementation of road crash related research.

Dr Rizwan Naseer, the Director General of Punjab Emergency Service, Pakistan, says there is enough research available to show that more than 80% of injuries are taking place in low and middle income countries.

The WHO Global Report on Road Safety points to the fact that over 90% of the world?s fatalities on roads occur in low and middle income countries, which have only 48% of the world?s vehicles.

Dr Naseer is convinced that special implementation of road crash research is urgently needed to reduce the alarming situation of road traffic accidents in the developing world.

?This is where the international agencies such as the United Nations (UN), WHO have to play a major important role to actually define what basic human right is, what rights to diverse and in case of any emergency the injured persons are provided with timely emergency care, that is where real change really begins with implementation of research??, he said.

In 2010, the WHO, through a consortium of partners received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to conduct activities that would improve road safety in 10 low and middle income countries over a period of five years (2010-2014).

The project referred to as Road Safety in 10 Countries is being conducted in Brazil, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam. ?The objective supports the governments in the 10 countries to implement good practices in road safety in line with their national road safety strategies.

He says saving lives is not a race for money but actually is a race for humanity and safety.

?The respect for human life needs to be created in low and middle income countries by governments, which means looking at better and safer means of way of saving lives.

?Uniform set of standards needs to be laid down by the UN and others, we need to define certain measures of prevention in a clear manner, we have all the evidence, we have all the research available and those basic standards needs to be defined for all and one needs to make sure they are properly implemented in the world? Dr Naseer stated.

Leadership plays an important role, countries such as Malaysia, Singapore have been able to change their systems, which has brought about change, thus ?more education, ?and awareness are needed to combat road crashes given that there is no better substitute for better implementation and better enforcement.

Dr Dale Hanson, Director, Rural Generalist Training (Prevocational) Queensland, Australia, said the resources invested in research papers published are strongly biased towards primary research in terms of road traffic prevention.

?There is hardly any intellectual energy or resources left to pursue the implementation and in the end unless there are efforts to implement the results in a real world situation they will not prevent harm and they will not safe lives??.

There is no doubt that data is power and helps to inform the debate. However, Dr Hanson said research looks for perfect data but there is enough data to show that road deaths are unacceptable high, especially in the developing world.

?I do not think we need more evidence to know that road trauma is a major cause of death and disability in the developing world. I don?t even think we need more information to know the major things we have to do. I think there is the need to stop the academic work and get our feet dirty and get on and do something about it because people are dying faster than we are saving them??.

Almost half of those who die in road traffic crashes are pedestrians, cyclists, or users of two-wheelers, collectively known as vulnerable road users and this proportion is higher in the poorest part of the world.? Most of the causes of road crashes are attributed to drink-driving, over-speeding, non-usage of seat belts and motor cycle helmets, among others.

Dr Hanson noted that the important step in addressing road crashes is to take proactive approach instead of reacting to trauma after the event?prevention plays an effective way of reducing the number of victims of road traffic accident.

There is a wonderful literature from the WHO that is trying to sensitise the things that are known about road trauma, there is also the Ten Years Decade of Action– a wonderful opportunity to make a difference as road traffic accident has become common in the developing world.

Building safer vehicles and roads, designing infrastructure with the protection of pedestrians and cyclists in mind, enhancing public transport and improving personal behaviours on the road would reduce injuries and contribute to healthier population generally, says the WHO Road Safety report.

The WHO Coordinator of Prevention of Violence, Dr Alexander Butchart said Ghana for in instance needs to implement programmes such as speed reduction, motor bike helmet usage, pedestrian separation from traffic which have over the years been effective in reducing road crashes.

It is also important, he added, for Ghana to undertake some basic research to know what is happening in other countries?to find out what caused the problem, how to improve the problem, implement those interventions and keep the cycle going?continuous quality improvement.

?Governments need to take injuries and violence very seriously because they are a major health problem and they need to adapt to the public health model which has the four stages of description?risk factor identification, intervention design, policy and scaling up, which needs to be done with a high commitment??, Dr Butchart said.

The Director of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the WHO, Dr Etienne Krug says prevention of road crash needs both research and implementation because injury and prevention is still an emergency field.

?Ghana needs to continue to undertake research ?to find out what works but, it is an established fact already that seat belts, drink driving action, speed control are actions that can be put in place now to reduce road traffic accidents??.

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