RSA Conference Focuses On The Human Impact Of Road Collisions

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) today Thursday 26th May held their annual international road safety conference in Dublin Castle called ‘The Human Impact of Road Collisions.’ The conference was attended by almost 200 people and among the attendees were victims of road collisions and family members who have lost loved ones in a collision on our roads.

The conference was addressed by Irish, UK and international speakers working in the area of road safety, with particular emphasis on support for survivors and families of victims of road collisions. The conference included presentations on the psychological effect of road collisions; the long-term impact of road collisions on survivors’ lives; the Golden Hour; experiences of front line staff; the consequences of road collisions from a rehabilitation perspective; and the lasting impact of road collisions on victims’ family members.

Mr Leo Varadkar T.D., Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport addressed the attendees at the conference, saying: “Today’s conference is about reminding everyone of the added dangers we face when using the roads. More importantly, it’s also about those who have been affected by road tragedy. It’s an important reminder that when we speak about road safety, we are not talking about faceless statistics but real people.

“Every week we read about people who have died on our roads. We often forget about those who survive these collisions and who continue to live with life-changing injuries. Not only are they learning to cope with their injuries, but their families, friends and loved ones are also learning how to support them every day.”

Mr Gay Byrne, Chairman of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said: “The conference today is really important for us. It’s new and it’s different. Today, we won’t be focusing on the causes of road collisions but on the people who are affected by them. It’s not a nice or easy thing to say, but all too often we talk about the people who have died on our roads. We don’t always think of the people who are seriously injured or the impact this has on families, relationships, communities – and futures. Today gives us an opportunity to better understand the real human impact of road collisions and how we can work together to prevent further needless tragedy on our roads.”

Among the speakers at the conference was Ms Brigitte Chaudhry, NGO coordinator of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) and Founder and President of RoadPeace (UK) who presented research from the FEVR study* of the impact of road deaths and injury. The study found that depression, anger, suicidal feelings, anxiety attacks and loss of drive are more common in relatives of disabled victims than in the victims themselves.

Ms Chaudhry said: “The FEVR study shows that it’s not just the victim who suffers as a result of a serious injury or death on our roads. Whilst negative emotions obviously affect the person involved in the collision, our study shows that the families of these victims often present more pronounced psychological suffering than the victims themselves.”

Dr Howard Johnson, Specialist in the Health Intelligence Unit, Health Service Executive (HSE) also spoke at the conference. Dr Johnson’s analysis of the HIPE data (data on public hospital admissions) showed that in the period 2005 to 2009, the number of people admitted to hospital as a result of a collision fell from 6,700 to 5,500, a decrease of one fifth in just five years. His research also showed that the number of patients requiring intensive care following a crash fell by almost 10%. However, the severity of injuries and profile of the victim remained unchanged in this period.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Johnson said: “Our analysis of hospital data from 2005 to 2009 shows that there is a significant decrease in the number of people being admitted to a public hospital as a result of a road crash. As a result, the demand for intensive care also decreased. However, despite the reduction in the numbers, the pattern and severity of injuries following a collision remain constant. Furthermore, the personal profile of the patient is also unchanged – the majority of patients we see are in their teens and twenties and predominately male (60%).”

Dr Edward Hickling, author and clinical psychologist from New York, also spoke at the conference, presenting his research into the presence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in people who are seriously injured in road collisions.

“In 2003, we published research from our study of 158 people who had been injured in road collisions. The aim of the research was to get a better understanding of the psychological impact of such injuries and specifically, the presence of PTSD as a result of the collision. After working with these people for two years after their collision, our study found that 40% had PTSD and 90% developed driving difficulties. In fact, some studies show that up to six years after their collision, as many as 40% of victims don’t improve, even with treatment.”

In addition to the presentations at today’s conference, the attendees also heard three personal stories from people who were either seriously injured in a collision or had lost someone to a road collision.

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