Experts and road safety activists in India have called for upgrading infrastructure and a greater focus on training paramedics to provide immediate first aid to accident victims.
According to India's Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, over 449,000 road accidents were reported across the country in 2019, in which over 151,000 people died and some 451,300 were injured.
While the number of accidents was lower than that in 2015, when over 501,400 were reported, the number of fatalities continued to rise in 2019.
According to experts, most fatalities due to accidents occur during the first 60 minutes following any injury or trauma, or “the golden hour.”
The golden hour is the critical first 60 minutes from the time of injury or appearance of symptoms when a person must receive treatment, as prompt medical attention during this period can save their life.
"In India, we have seen that the first hour, which we call the golden hour, gets wasted almost," Dr. Sameer Aggarwal, a trauma surgeon, told Anadolu Agency.
He explained that when an accident takes place, the golden hour is lost because the patient is shifted to a bigger health facility after first being checked at a small health center.
"When a patient comes to small health setups, their doctors are not trained to deal with such types of patients, and they mostly are in a hurry to shift the patient to a big center. In several cases, the patient is not given first aid as well," he said.
In several countries, Aggarwal said, the focus is more on the golden hour. "The treatment is provided immediately within that first hour," he added.
- First aid awareness
Road safety activist Harman Sidhu, founder of ArriveSAFE, an India-based non-governmental organization that works in the field of road safety and aims to increase knowledge and awareness among road users, said the number of deaths from road accidents is more than what is usually available to the public.
"It is more than what is statistically reported. One of the reasons is that in many cases where someone dies several days after being admitted to the hospital, that person is not added as a road traffic accident victim. There are many people who have long stayed in the hospital and they are no more," said Sidhu.
The focus should be more on preventing accidents in the country in the first place and awareness about providing first aid is the need of the hour, he maintained.
"Our road network is improving, but we need to focus more on safety parameters, which I think is still lacking," he said. "We need to focus on safety measures and road use behavior like the licensing system. Though it has improved, it is still weak.”
"The government needs to create more awareness about providing first aid. We should know the basics of first aid, because it can help reduce the severity of the injury and save lives," he added.
India's Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said in June that the government's target is to reduce road accident deaths by 50% by 2024. The minister had pointed out that 50% of the road accidents occur due to road engineering problems and now the government has taken special initiatives to improve the “black spot.”
According to the India's Road Transport and Highways Ministry, an accident black spot is a road stretch of about 500 meters (1,640 feet) on which either five road accidents or 10 fatalities during the last three years are reported.
- Infrastructure, training
Experts say that countries need to heavily invest in infrastructure and training manpower.
"The need of hour is to improve the infrastructure. What can really help is if we can have facilities nearby the accident sites so that accident victims could be taken to the hospital immediately, and if needed, they can be quickly rushed to the bigger hospitals," Aggarwal said.
He said a trained paramedic can play a role because they can provide first aid to an accident victim.
"We need to train the first responder. For example, it could be the police vehicle that brings the patient to the hospital or the ambulance staff as well. The trained staff is there, but the number is not much," he said.
Sidhu echoed Aggarwal’s views.
"We have to invest in trauma centers and in training of the dedicated paramedic staff," Sidhu added.
Referring to the 108 emergency ambulance service, which is functional in several Indian states, Sidhu said: "The country now has a good ambulance network at some places, but it is not showing results statistically."