Christmas road safety campaign targets high number of head injuries

This year’s Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign has been launched with the focus on serious head injuries as a result of road collisions.

Statistics from the National Neurosurgery Centre at Beaumont Hospital show that of an average of 250 head trauma transfers to the hospital every year, one in seven are as a result of a road collision.

To date in 2013, 36 admissions were as a result of road traffic collisions. The year-to-date statistics also show that vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists ) represent 70 per cent of admissions as a result of road collisions and are two and a half times more likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury than car-users.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, said: “In 2012 we had the lowest number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads since records began for the fifth consecutive year. But as 2013 draws to a close, 23 more people have died on our roads so far compared with the numbers who died during the entire year in 2012, including the Christmas period.

“These numbers not only represent lives lost, but huge tragedy for the families, friends and communities left behind. The increase in road deaths in 2013 serves as a stark reminder of why we must all continue to make our roads safer for everyone, particularly over Christmas and New Year.”

At the launch, David O’Brien, consultant neurosurgeon and clinical director at Beaumont Hospital’s National Neurosurgery Centre presented hospital data from the past year, giving a profile of how head injuries present to the unit as a result of road collisions.

“The typical profile of our head trauma patients is young adult males. Of those, 13 were cyclists; none of them were wearing helmets. We also saw 10 drivers, seven pedestrians and five motorbike riders.

“What people may not realise is there is a small army involved in the aftercare of these trauma victims. These patients can have long-lasting disabilities, which can be physical or non-physical, and some may never fully recover. We’re never going to eliminate road traffic collisions completely, but what we can do is minimise them, and part of this is down to each individual’s behaviour on the roads.”

At the launch, Gay Byrne, chairman of the Road Safety Authority, reminded people not to forget those who had sustained serious head injuries in collisions.

“When we hear or read about road collisions, more often than not, it’s because someone has died. But what we often forget are those who are seriously injured in these collisions. With a head injury, the effects are not always immediately apparent and the consequences these people live with can be invisible. But they’re not invisible, they’re devastating – to the individual, their families and their communities.

“As we enter the final days of 2013 and the beginning of a new year, I want us to all to remember these people and to remember that all it takes is a split second for a serious injury or worse to happen. Our message, as always, is simple – don’t take risks on the road. Slow down, wear your seatbelt, never ever drink or drug drive, wear high visibility clothing if you’re out walking or on your bike, and make sure you get home safely this Christmas.”

Over the festive period, there will be a determined focus by An Garda Síochána on key lifesaver offences, ie, driving under the influence, speeding, non-use of seatbelts, and use of mobile phones.

Speaking at the launch, Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said: “The Christmas enforcement campaign by An Garda Síochána is in full force during the month of December. There will be an increase in the number of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints performed, and they will be carried out on a targeted, 24/7 basis. Speeding enforcement by the GoSafe safety camera vans will also increase to 7,375 hours of monitoring in the month of December.

“In addition to enforcement activity, there will be a number of safety initiatives targeting vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists. I would like to remind everyone this is not about catching people, it’s about protecting each and every person who uses the roads so we can all have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.”


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