The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána today launched their Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign in collaboration with the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater Hospital. The focus of this year’s campaign is serious injuries as a result of collisions as statistics showed that 19,681 people were seriously injured in a collision in the period 1996 to 2011.
A further analysis of the statistics shows that the number of serious injuries has decreased in recent years, in line with the reduction in road fatalities, with the lowest number of serious injuries recorded in 2011 (440)*. This was echoed in the presentation given by Mr Keith Synnott, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Mater Hospital who said that in the past, most spinal cord injuries admitted to the hospital were as a result of road collisions (up to 50% in many studies), but that this had significantly reduced in recent years.
Speaking at the launch today, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Leo Varadkar TD said: “Last year we had the lowest number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads since records began. Nevertheless, we must continue with efforts to reduce the toll even further. Today I visited the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater Hospital, where the members of staff are doing extraordinary work to support patients recovering from spinal cord injuries. This visit puts into perspective the simple things we all take for granted. And it serves as a sharp reminder of why we should all strive for road safety, particularly over the festive period.”
In his presentation, Mr Keith Synnott, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mater Hospital also presented hospital data from the past two years which showed a considerable reduction in the number of spinal injuries presenting themselves to the Unit as a result of road collisions. “We are delighted to be able to collaborate with the RSA and An Garda Síochána by hosting this launch at the Mater Hospital and the National Spinal Injuries Unit. Spinal cord injuries have a devastating and truly life changing impact on people who suffer them and their families. Unfortunately in many cases the damage to the spinal cord and its consequences are irreversible,” said Mr Synnott.
“The highly skilled multidisciplinary team that work with these patients in the Mater are dedicated to helping patients survive these injuries, to prevent further injury and disease in these complex and challenging cases and to help them begin the often long and difficult road to rehabilitation. The goal of treatment is often to help patients maximise the function that remains following their injury. In spinal cord injury the old adage that prevention is better than cure is never more apt and it is with this in mind that we hope that this launch will encourage people to take care on the roads over Christmas and heed the message of the RSA and An Garda Síochána.”
At the launch, Mr Gay Byrne, Chairman, Road Safety Authority reminded people not to forget those who have been seriously injured 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. It’s estimated that for every death on EU roads, there are at least eight serious injuries such as spinal cord injuries, as we have heard today, severe brain damage and injuries that require lifelong support and attention.”
“As we enter the final days of 2012 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 and make sure you get home safely this Christmas.”
Over the festive period, there will be a determined focus by An Garda Síochána on high risk behaviour such as excessive and inappropriate speed, drink and drug driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts.
Speaking at the launch, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said: “An Garda Síochána, through the Traffic Corps, is committed to working with all of the agencies involved in road safety to ensure we minimise the tragic impact of road collisions, be it a death or a serious injury. As such, over the festive period, we will be dedicating our resources to stamping out irresponsible, risky behaviour on our roads. But I would like to remind everyone that this is not about catching people, it’s about protecting each and every person who uses the roads so that we can all have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.”
At the launch, Elaine Hanley spoke about how her life has changed since she was in a collision last year. “Last year, I was a typical 23 year old girl. I was working as a nurse in a care of the elderly hospital, hoping to do further study in the field of geriatrics. I enjoyed going out with friends, going for walks with my dog and helping my family with the farm. Then in August 2011, my life changed. I was in a collision and when I woke up, I was in the Mater Hospital with a spinal injury that left me paralysed from the chest down. The turnaround from being a nurse to being a patient, literally overnight, was overwhelming.”
Elaine added “My life has completely changed for my family and me since that day in August. Living with a serious injury is a daily struggle and life, will never be the same again. Nobody ever thinks they will be in a crash or that something so serious could happen to them but it can. So I would like people to realise that we are so fragile when on the roads and that we really need to take great care.”
A total of 154 people have been killed in road collisions to date in 2012 compared to 174 deaths to the same date in 2011. This represents 20 fewer deaths this year compared to last. When broken down by road-user, this represents 78 drivers, 25 passengers, 23 pedestrians, 16 motorcyclists and 8 cyclists who have died on Irish roads to date this year.