Public Health

Road accidents killed more people than Covid19 in India

Something in India kills one person every 4 minutes.

If you think it is Covid19 or some infectious disease you are wrong, this is more lethal and dangerous than cancer. It is not even the usual suspects like Diabetes…then what is it?

It is road accidents? Surprised? You should not be …

Last month a team member had to take some time off to see to the last rites of a relative who had died in a collision. Incidentally the death of the family member led to other unintended consequences for the family. Just the next day I got news of a bunch of medicos who had died on the way to Goa after a school reunion.

According to reports from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the numbers are very concerning. India has lost 80,000 people this year to road fatalities. That is almost 13% of all deaths due to road accidents globally. This is despite the fact that India has only 1% of registered vehicles globally. So while this is a worry there is little by way of data that can help us understand the reasons for these numbers.

Let’s look at this phenomenon globally.

Road traffic continues to be a major developmental issue, a public health concern and is a leading cause of death and injury across the World killing more than 1.35 million globally as reported in the Global Status report on Road Safety 2018 with 90% of these casualties taking place in the developing countries. These are the leading causes of death for children aged 4-14 and for young adults below the age of 29 years.

54% of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists and motor cycle drivers.

Road accidents in India kill almost 1.5 lakh people annually. Accordingly, India accounts for almost 11% of the accident related deaths in the World.

As per the consortium of Delhi IIT & DMITS, commissioned by MORTH to estimate the socio-economic costs of road accidents, the total estimated socio economic cost of road accidents reported by India in 2018 was Rs 1,47,114 crores which was equivalent to 0.77% of the nation’s GDP.

What is more concerning being that there is no change in the number of accidents or the deaths and injuries due to those accidents over the last 5 years? Incidentally the only casualty of the farmer protests so far in the country was an individual who lost control of his tractor and succumbed to his injuries, which will put down the cause of his death to road accident. The below table tells the rest of the story.

Number of accidents and subsequent deaths from 2015-2019 in India

Interestingly national and state highways which account for a mere 5% of the roads account for almost 50% of the accidents and subsequent fatalities. The highways are the preferred mode of transport for both passengers and freight in the country.

I think it would make sense for everyone to download this report and read it. It has a more direct impact than the toolkit that has been in news for all the wrong reasons.

So is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Well these seems to be some interesting statistics from Tamil Nadu that might be helpful. The state accounts for the highest number of road accidents. In 2019 there were 57,228 odd accidents in the state that accounted for almost 12.7% of the accidents in the entire country. While the absolute number is high, what it hides is a 10% decrease over 2018 numbers. While it tops in the number of accidents, the deaths due to accidents is lower at 10,525 (Nationally in 5th place) which also marks a 13.8% decrease in the number of deaths over 2018. I have taken the number purposely for 2019 as 2020 road traffic numbers are far lower due to the pandemic.

All this data is available for public consumption on this site.

So what has Tamilnadu done that can be followed as a framework across other states? Well for starters it has taken these key steps

  • Analysis of exact reasons for the accidents, crunching this data to ensure that root cause identification is done and those recurring causes are eliminated
  • Ensuring that ambulance is available and reaches the crash site within 13 minutes, reducing the loss of life
  • Analyzing crash sites and making changes in the road structure and barricade protection to reduce recurrence of accidents
  • Availability of medical personnel near to chronic crash sites
  • Educating drivers on public safety
  • Enforcing safety drives by the police
  • Last but not the least smooth coordination between the various agencies – Police, Hospitals, National High Authority and Ministry of Roads and Surface Transport among others

While this looks like a good model to start with, I believe these is a lot more that needs to be done. I would continue the above but add the following to the list

  • Encourage safe driving lessons at all schools, especially for classes 11 and 12. This should be ideally continued to the first year to college, where most drivers would get their first license
  • Continue to work with OEMs and Auto Manufacturers to ensure safety norms, protocols and education is continued when a buyer walks into the dealership to buy a vehicle
  • Constant education to pedestrians, cyclists and motor cycle and 2 wheel riders, as these are the sections most affected by road accidents these are the categories that we should speak to more and make them aware of the dangers of road
  • Encourage train travel, it is beyond doubt that the trains have a much better safety record than the roads and we should encourage more people to pick up trains to mode of passenger transport, reducing the chances of accidents by road
  • Collect data and act on it locally, I think we seem to be more interested in national issues but we need to act locally to help build up the numbers nationally

The loss to family, society and country through road accidents is immense. From a healthcare perspective, these accidents add to the burden of a healthcare system that is bursting at the seams. A death every 4 minutes that is avoidable is something the system can ill afford.

So drive safe and stay heathy…..

Public Health

Did you know more adolescents In India die of Non-Communicable Diseases, Injuries, and Self-Harm than Infections

A study has revealed that more adolescents in India are now dying of non-communicable diseases (NCD) than communicable diseases. The research has also shown that NCDs and injuries are responsible for a higher number of deaths and Disability-Adjusted Life-Years (DALYs) than tuberculosis, malaria, or hepatitis, which are among the most prevalent communicable diseases in India today.

According to the Global Burden of Disease report, while communicable diseases are still the major cause of death among younger adolescents, there is a growing number of deaths among older adolescents caused by road traffic injuries, fire, and heat-related injuries, mental disorders, and self-harm. Based on the study which shows the results from 1990 to 2013, it appears that apart from accidents, unsafe behaviour and mental health issues have also contributed to the death or disability of teenagers in India.

Death due to injuries and NCDs

Among the leading causes of injuries among teenagers in India are road traffic injuries, and according to a study, there are 400 road deaths per day in the country. This means that someone dies every 3.6 minutes. It has also been discovered that there has been a 23% increase of death among young girls ages 10 to 14 died from injuries, while death from NCDs is at 23%. For boys in the same age group, there is an increase of 27% for deaths due to injuries while death from NCDs rose by 25%.

The number of deaths is higher in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, with a 38% increase of death from injuries among girls, while death from NCDs has shifted to 20%. For boys of this age group, there is a 43% increase of death from injuries while deaths of NCDs increased by 26%.

Death due to self-harm

Adolescence is a critical period in a person’s life, and this is when children need guidance and support from their families and the school system. When faced or overwhelmed with problems, some adolescents may either lash out at other people, or they may choose to harm themselves. Right now, an alarming number of teens in India are dying of self-harm. The incidence of death due to self-harm is higher for adolescent girls than boys. It has been noted that there is a 105% increase in death from self-harm of girls ages 10 to 14, while there is a 92% increase of death in girls ages 15 to 19.

Preventing self-harm among adolescents

Most teenagers self-harm by consuming alcohol, smoking, doing drugs, and cutting. Some even inadvertently harm themselves as they develop eating disorders due to negative body image or bullying. Experts say that improving body image awareness may help improve teen health and curb destructive behaviour. Parents, schools, and healthcare providers should be aware of body shaming language and correct such behaviour.

Moreover, it is imperative to teach teenagers healthy and wholesome ways to improve themselves, such as meditating, exercising or intermittent fasting if trying to lose weight. Teaching them the right way to cope with health and body image issues may keep them healthy and can help to lessen the urge to self-harm.

Preventing injuries

Teaching teenagers road safety rules should be a priority to prevent the majority of adolescent death. Schools should also take steps to educate young boys and girls about the dangers of fire as well as safety measures when working with fire. Fire drills should also be conducted regularly to keep students safe if a fire occurs.

To preserve the life of adolescents, there should be more programmes in place with focus on nutrition, injury prevention, and mental health geared towards the young. By doing so, teenagers across India may get the chance to live a longer, healthier life. 

About the Author

Jane Sandwood is a content writer who is passionate about healthcare.

Photo by Debashis Biswas on Unsplash