Nine serious injuries for every fatality on Irish roads, RSA research reveals

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  • Road Safety Authority (RSA) hosts online Academic Lecture focusing on serious injuries
  • Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists account for over half of all serious injuries
  • Three in four injured in road traffic collisions admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital suffered traumatic brain injuries
  • Up to 1/3 of serious injury victims in Europe suffer from lifelong disabilities
  • Up to 50 million people globally suffer serious injuries resulting from road traffic collisions each year 

Research by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has revealed that between 2017 and 2020, for every one road death recorded there were nine serious injuries on Irish roads. The research was presented at the RSA’s Annual Academic Lecture online today, which centred on the topic of serious injuries.

Delegates attending the virtual event heard from domestic and international road safety and medical experts on the topic of serious injuries.

Speaking ahead of the RSA Academic Lecture, Velma Burns, Research Manager at the RSA said: “In the four years during 2017 – 2020, RSA figures show that 5,037 people were seriously injured on Irish roads in road traffic collisions. In 2021, there were 1,091 serious injuries reported because of a road traffic collision*. The research also shows that vulnerable road users – pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists accounted for over half of all serious injuries (54%). While there is an average of six drivers seriously injured for every one driver death, there are 25 cyclists seriously injured for every cyclist fatality. The research also showed that 63% of drivers who suffered from serious injuries were male, whereas over half (55%) of passengers who suffered serious injuries were female.”

Also speaking at the Academic Lecture, Professor Aine Carroll, Professor of Healthcare Integration and Improvement, UCD, and Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine, National Rehabilitation Hospital, said: “From a trauma and rehabilitation point of view the landscape is complex. Analysis of National Rehabilitation University Hospital (NRH) admissions statistics found that three in four injuries from road traffic collisions during 2014 – 2018 were traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are life-altering, and often require years of intense rehabilitation. I have seen first-hand the devastating cognitive and physical consequences serious injuries have for these patients and their day-to-day lives. Serious injuries affect not just the victim of the road traffic incident, they can also be life-changing for their families, their friends and their communities.”

Dr. Letty Aarts, Department Head at the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, said, “The next decade will be a critical time for road safety across Europe, in particular when we think of the many victims of road traffic collisions who suffer lasting consequences of serious injuries. Serious injuries are complex and do not just go away overnight. EU research has shown that three quarters of serious injury victims have not fully recovered from their injuries after three years. Up to one third of serious injury victims suffer from lifelong disabilities because of their injuries.”

She added that, “serious injury victims can experience huge physical, cognitive and psychological challenges. Many are left with pain, fatigue, financial difficulties and PTSD, among other difficulties. In a split second their lives are changed forever, and we must never forget this. I’d like to thank the RSA for highlighting this issue at the Academic Lecture, and for our continued collaboration to make our roads safer for citizens in Europe.”

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton TD said, “Last month, I launched the new Government Road Safety Strategy, which will run from 2021 to 2030.  This Strategy sets an ambitious target of reducing road deaths and serious injuries by half over this period. Put simply, we can’t say we are fully addressing safety on our roads until we take serious injuries into account.  To acknowledge the importance of preventing and treating serious injuries from road traffic collisions, the 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 target of a 50% 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.

Mr Sam Waide, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority said ‘There have been over 85,000 serious injuries in Ireland since we began recording them in 1977. The findings presented at the Academic Lecture add urgency to the targets outlined in the Government Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 to reduce serious injuries and deaths on Irish roads by 50% by 2030. To ensure the focus is maintained on serious injuries the RSA will commence a series of spotlight reports on serious injuries in individual road user groups, commencing in 2022. The RSA is to partner with the HSE and Trinity College in a new collaboration to examine and compare serious injury data from both hospital and collision data. These measures to better understand the number and nature of serious injuries will coincide with the implementation of the Phase One Action Plan under the Government Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030.”

The Government Road Safety Strategy outlines 50 high-impact actions setting Ireland on course to meet these ambitious targets. These high-impact actions include reducing speed in urban and rural areas, provision of segregated infrastructure, promotion of lifesaving vehicle technologies, enhancing Ireland’s post-crash response, as well as actions around enforcement.

The Phase 1 Action Plan under the Road Safety Strategy can be accessed on the RSA website here and the Government Road Safety Strategy can be accessed here.