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Road crashes bleed public resources

Published:Friday | January 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE ISLAND recorded a marginal decline in the number of road fatalities last year but traffic accidents still continued to eat up a large chunk of the money allocated to the health sector.

Data released yesterday by the National Road Safety Council showed 334 road deaths last year, down from 343 in 2008.

This continued a trend which started in 2007 where the number of road fatalities has declined each year since the 371 recorded in 2006.

But despite the declining numbers, road accidents took a significant toll on public resources last year.

Preliminary figures revealed that more than $1.7 billion was spent in public hospitals to treat persons injured in traffic crashes.

"We can cut down this expenditure by adhering to the rules and taking personal responsibility for your safety on the road," Paula Fletcher, executive director of the National Road Safety Council, said yesterday.

Fletcher argued that while there might be a tendency to focus on deaths resulting from crashes, several motor-vehicle accident victims suffered permanent injuries.

She repeated her organisation's plea for greater care and safety on the road while noting that men were the majority of the victims of motor-vehicle accidents.

The preliminary data for last year showed that 84 per cent of the persons who died in traffic accidents were male.

There was also a sharp increase (43 per cent) in the number of children, between zero and 14 years old, who died on the roads.

Pedestrian deaths reduced

Pedestrian deaths showed a reduction of 22.5 per cent and accounted for just under one-quarter of the total fatalities.

This was an improvement over the previous years under review when pedestrian deaths have hovered above one-third of total fatalities.

Fletcher also expressed concern about the increase in the number of persons who lost their lives while travelling in private motor cars. But she noted that a significant number of robot-taxi passengers fell in this category.

According to Fletcher, the insufficient use of seat belts is believed to be a significant contributor to multiple fatalities in public-passenger vehicles when they are involved in crashes.

She said there was a noticeable disregard for the use of safety devices, such as seat belts and car seats/child-safety seats, especially in the back of vehicles.