New hospital-based study shows significantly higher numbers of serious injuries from road traffic collisions – RSA

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New research presented by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) at the RSA’s Annual Conference shows significantly higher numbers of serious injuries from road traffic collisions. The number of road users admitted to hospital (2014-2021) as in-patients in Ireland following a road traffic collision is significantly higher (15,677) than the number of seriously injured casualties recorded by An Garda Síochána and reported in official statistics by the RSA (8,977).

This research was conducted by the RSA in conjunction with the HSE and Trinity College Dublin, following recommendations of the European Commission to all Member States to formally report on serious injuries using hospital data, as a complement to police data.

Provisional RSA data has revealed that between 2018 and 2022, there were approximately 10 serious injuries for every fatality on Irish roads. To date in 2023, there have been over 900 people seriously injured on the roads in Ireland. Both of these insights derive from the current system of recording of serious injuries by An Garda Síochána.

The RSA’s Annual Conference gets underway in Dublin today, addressing national and international road safety delegates and medical experts on the topic of serious injuries.

The discrepancy between hospital and police data has been observed internationally and can be more pronounced when looking at cyclist serious injuries. This was the case in Ireland, following the findings of this research project, where 2.4 times more cyclists were hospitalised following a road traffic collision, compared to numbers recorded in official figures recorded by An Garda Síochána and reported by the RSA.

There are many reasons why hospital figures are higher than police-reported figures – if an incident was not formally reported to police, or if a serious injury only became apparent in the days immediately following a collision. For cyclists specifically, this new Irish study noted that 63% of all cyclists hospitalised sustained their injuries in single cyclist collisions, where no other vehicle was involved. 

 Minister Jack Chambers TD said: “The current Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 includes specific actions relating to reporting on serious injuries using hospital data, in line with European Commission requirements, and to explore other complementary data sources such as the Major Trauma Audit in collaboration with stakeholders in the health sector.

I welcome the RSA’s collaboration with the HSE and Trinity College Dublin to better understand the nature and scale of serious injuries sustained on Irish roads. This type of evidence-based cross-agency collaboration is critical to supporting us in achieving the ambitious reductions in serious injuries committed to in the government Road Safety Strategy. 

Having an accurate account of the serious injuries that people experience as a result of a road traffic collision is central to road safety. This will inform road safety policy as well as feed into measures to improve post-crash response, infrastructure, and technology. In addition, the implementation of the measures contained in the speed limit review, changes to penalty points legislation, increased enforcement by An Garda Síochána and the RSA’s education and awareness campaigns are all vital to reducing serious injuries and making our roads safer for all users.”

Dr Stefania Castello, Research Department at the Road Safety Authority said: “In this study, we also focused on looking at the profile of the cyclists who sustained the most severe injuries from a clinical point of view. We saw that these cyclists were more frequently males, 45 years or older, and sustained serious lower limb or head injuries. This is new information that the RSA has not previously had access to and provides valuable information to us to inform the development of evidence-based interventions for road safety and for public health.”

A panel discussion on e-scooters will also feature in the RSA’ s Annual Conference and will include expert discussions from Belgium, Norway, the UK and Ireland.Provisional data from these countries indicated a steady increase in the number of patients presenting to hospitals with an e-scooter injury. Regulations for e-scooters in Ireland are due to be in place in coming weeks following approval at a European level.

Between 1 January 2022 and 24 September 2023, the total number of e-scooter users injured was 51, three were fatally injured, and 48 e-scooter users were seriously injured. During the same period, 12 other road users were injured in a collision involving an e-scooter, one fatally and 11 seriously.

Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson of the Road Safety Authority said: “Worryingly, the first half of 2023 saw the worst number of road deaths in the past six years. The progress we have made in road safety over the last number of years is at risk and we are acting immediately. At the RSA, we are focusing on a number of measures to urgently improve road safety in 2023 and going forward. Eight priority focus areas were identified and approved by the Road Safety Transformation Partnership Board and the Ministerial Committee. We are also significantly investing in education and campaigns on drink-driving, distracted driving and protecting vulnerable road users by slowing down. At a high level meeting between RSA, both Minister and Junior Minister for Transport, the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner last week, there was a collective commitment to accelerate enforcement measures, legislation and funding for education and awareness campaigns to reverse the upward trend in fatalities. Every step together we take across society to avoid collisions can save lives and prevent serious injury.

Later this year, the new regulations to establish the Rules of the Road for the safe use of e-scooters on public roads will be introduced. The timing for the roll out of these regulations is important as we see the use of the vehicle type growing – according to a recent Behaviour and Attitudes survey, the usage of e-scooters was at 3% of the population as of mid-2022 and is likely to grow to 12%. The RSA will launch its awareness campaign in November, highlighting the Rules of the Road for both e-scooterists and other road users in terms of how to share the roads safely together.” 

Sam Waide, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority, said: “Serious injuries have been a key focus of our Crashed Lives campaigns since 2011. The RSA’s campaign tracking, undertaken by B&A has repeatedly shown that our Crashed Lives campaign, most particularly those telling the stories of individuals who have themselves sustained a serious injury, delivers the strongest results for any RSA advertising. Serious injuries and their impact resonate very strongly with people and remind everyone of the people behind the numbers they may hear on the radio or read in a newspaper and prompt them to make a behaviour change.

Irish professional cyclist Imogen Cotter and eighteen-year-old Méabh White are two individuals speaking at our conference today who survived a collision with serious injuries. We greatly appreciate their bravery in telling their stories and we hope all road users can hear these stories and adapt their behaviour on our roads accordingly.”

To date in 2023, a total of 136 lives have been lost on the road. This is up 23 compared to the same date last year.