As India strides ahead on the track to becoming the fastest-growing world economy, the number of personal and commercial vehicles running on Indian roads are increasing exponentially year on year. But the implications of a highly motorized society often come at a ghastly price to be paid – massive socioeconomic losses, public health burden and deaths caused due to road accidents.
It’s unfortunate but true – India holds the fateful record of witnessing the highest number of deaths due to road accidents globally. As per data from the Government of India’s Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, on an average, over 1.5 lakh Indians succumb to road accidents annually, which roughly translates to 1100+ accidents occurring daily, and about 17 deaths every hour, i.e. a road accident potentially killing one person in every 4 minutes! Furthermore, road accident injuries in India have, in the recent years, emerged as one of the biggest contributors of lifelong disability, morbidity and trauma experienced by millions. As a matter of fact, the overall road safety and road accident response scenario in India has remained so grim and grave over the years that several experts have been forced to call it a “silent epidemic” or a “healthcare catastrophe”!
While the statistics are certainly alarming and call for immediate action, evidence suggests that a significant majority of these accident fatalities are preventable, given that our country’s road accident response mechanisms are being ramped up and the road accident victims are provided with emergency medical intervention during the ‘Golden Hour’ – the extremely vital first hour after a road injury occurs, which usually determines the chances of survival of a critically-injured victim.
Now when it comes to establishing effective road accident response systems, even though there are multiple stakeholders involved, yet the pivotal role played by the healthcare sector herein cannot be understated. From being the first responders at times, giving first aid/CPR to the victims, to assessing triage to providing timely emergency medical care and rehabilitation services to aid recovery, and most importantly, enabling the reduction in the number of fatalities in the longer run, it’s a no-brainer to recognize that road accident response requires the active participation of multiple healthcare personnel.
What is concerning though is that in our country, many a times the healthcare systems are underequipped, ill-equipped or even blatantly unprepared and/or resource-crunched for efficiently dealing with emergency road accident response cases. To add to that dilemma, congestion on Indian roads often lead to delays in transporting the victim(s) to the nearest medical facility, and tedious and complex medico-legal processes involved at private hospitals and healthcare centers can often lead to delays in hospitalization and post-accident medical response, which obviously translates to losing out on the ‘precious’ Golden Hour medical attention.
In view of the above-mentioned issues, it is imperative for the Government to invest heavily in and to work with both public and private healthcare providers in a bid to urgently improve the country’s emergency healthcare scenario and formulate integrated road accident response mechanisms. At the same time, private healthcare stakeholders must also step forward voluntarily in terms of skilling/upskilling paramedics and other health support staff to be better prepared for road accident response related emergencies. Last but not the least, we must put enhanced focus on utilizing modern technologies such as AI, remote wireless sensors, GPS tracking, machine learning algorithms, telemedicine etc. to the fullest to enable faster road accident response timelines as well as for improving the accessibility of emergency medical aid (including doctors, nurses, emergency care specialists, ambulances and so on) when and where needed the most.