Road accidents are an everyday part of our lives. The morning radio news warns of hold ups in traffic because of accidents, the evening news shows dramatic footage of mangled cars and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Behind the grim statistic of 1,390 people dead from motor accidents in New South Wales alone for the 12 months up to September 2017, there are many thousand more stories of grief and loss.
A road accident has amazing triple effects. It may involve death and injury. Imagine being first at the scene! There is assistance to be given, the site secured so further accidents do not occur, emergency services contacted to give expert help. It is at this point that police, ambulance, SES, fire brigade become involved. The air ambulance may be necessary to airlift seriously injured people to the nearest trauma hospital. This never becomes an everyday job.
Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours — all these people are affected. Losing a loved family member in this way is a sudden shock, and other family members may be also injured. Sadly, too often in multiple fatalities, more than one family member is involved.
In 2009, I was one of the 9,977 people in Australia hospitalised as a result of a car accident. It was then I learned of the vast network of people involved in responding to MVAs — Motor Vehicle Accidents as all my paperwork has it.
Apart from the emergency doctors and nurses there were radiographers, MRI specialists, and later surgeons, physiotherapists, intensive care nurses, psychologists, social workers, dieticians, brace makers and fitters. In rehabilitation a specialist doctor and physiotherapists were needed as well as the nurses and ward staff and continued radiographers.
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On release from hospital care continued with my GP, an orthopaedic surgeon , a physiotherapist and a psychologist and eventually an Aquaerobics instructor and podiatrist. The local taxi service became part of the team when family had to be away. I learnt about the large number of people involved in pain management.
Then there are the vast bureaucracies — my employer, the insurance company, Worker’s Compensation as my accident was still in the time when driving to or from work was covered by Workers’ Compensation. Lawyers became involved and there were further medical assessments.
Aside from medical and legal costs there is the pain and suffering, not just to the people involved in accidents but to the family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. For a while their lives are turned upside down and there is fear as the future is uncertain.
The financial impact to individuals and society is huge. Government estimates have the cost at $27 billion a year.
We are aware of factors in the cause of accidents — speed, tiredness and the affects of drugs and alcohol. Legislation has ensured we behave more responsibly — buckle up, child restraints, don’t drink and drive. Cars are safer. The message doesn’t seem to get through. I thought this particularly as a P plater passed me at speed in heavy rain round a bend in a stretch of road noted by locals for flooding recently.
The statistics for deaths in road accidents are but one measure of the impact caused by road accidents, and each death is certainly one too many. The impact, though, is far wider.
Have you been involved in a road accident? What do you think can be done to reduce the toll on Australian roads, especially in the lead up to Christmas?