Holiday seasons are times of celebrations, parties and having fun, but they are also periods when many fatal crashes occur. Increase in alcohol consumption combined with congestion and distraction on the roads, often results in more injuries and fatalities.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 1.35 million people die yearly as a result of road traffic clashes. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability, as a result of their injuries.
Road traffic clashes are approximated to cause most countries at least 3 per cent of their gross domestic product. It causes considerable economic losses to individuals, their families and to the nation as a whole. Fortunately, most of these crashes can be averted.
While tackling this issue requires concerted actions from governments, effective regulations and enforcement, WHO has listed some things you can do to help keep you and your family safe while out and about, over the holidays.
Always wear a seatbelt
You have a vastly greater chance of surviving a collision if you wear a seatbelt, which reduce the risk of death by as much as 60 per cent.
Every passenger in the car should buckle up for every trip – no matter where you are going or how short this trip is. WHO also recommends age-appropriate child restraints for children under four years and booster seats for older children up to ten years of age or 135 cm tall.
Restrict alcohol use
Alcohol is a leading risk factor for injuries, and should never be mixed with road travel. Even low levels of alcohol consumption are associated with majorly increased risks – whether you are on foot, on two wheels or four.
It is always safest not to drink. But if you do, stay within recommended limits; or best still, make sure to arrange alternative transport for you and your family.
Wear a helmet
In many low-income and middle-income countries, motorcyclists and cyclists make up more than half of those injured or killed on the roads, with head injuries the main cause of death.
If you are involved in a crash, correct helmet use – including for the bike driver and any passenger – can give you up to a 40 per cent chance of survival.
Correct helmet use means not only ensuring that you are wearing it at all times when on the road. It also must fit and be fastened correctly, so that it will give the best possible protection when it’s needed.
Watch your speed
Excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to one in three road traffic deaths. The greater your speed, the higher the risk of a crash… and the more likely it is that this crash will cost someone their life.
With an impact speed of 80 km/h, the likelihood of death in a crash is 20 times what it would be at an impact speed of 30 km/h. So slow down; know the traffic rules, and always keep to the speed limits!
There are many types of distractions that can lead to impaired driving, but the distraction caused by mobile phones is a particular and growing concern.
Drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Hands-free phones are not much safer and if you are texting, the risk increases by more than twenty-fold.
So make sure your phone is on silent and out of reach when you are on the road.
Be a road safety champion
Finally, everyone has a role to play in advocating for road safety, and taking action to prevent the millions of unnecessary road traffic deaths that occur not just over the holidays, but every day, in every year.
Governments also need to ensure road and transport infrastructure is safe for road users and pedestrians, including through measures such as side walks and dedicated cycle lanes, and emergency care for crash victims.
WHO is supporting countries to implement a number of critical measures to improve road safety for all people. These include legislation and enforcement of laws on speeding, prevention of drink-driving, seat-belts, helmets and child restraints, as well as regulation of vehicles.