50 to 70pc of road traffic deaths can be avoided by using seat belts, helmets

By Muhammad Qasim
May 19, 2024
Commuters make their way along a motorway as they enter the capital city Islamabad. — AFP/ File

Rawalpindi Nearly two per cent of the total deaths in Pakistan can be attributed to road traffic accidents and according to rough estimates, well over 30,000 people die each year in Pakistan in result of accidents on the roads though according to a renowned neurosurgeon Professor Dr Aslan Javed Munir, wearing a seat belt can reduce mortality rate by up to 50 per cent while wearing a helmet can reduce the same by up to 70%.


Talking to ‘The News’ on the importance of road safety measures, Dr. Aslan said the number of cases of head and spinal injuries in result of road traffic accidents is registering a continuous increase for years mainly because the majority of the drivers do not follow the driving protocols while poor conditions of our roads, poor driving discipline, violating rules, over-speeding and inefficient monitoring are also adding fire to the fuel.

He added the statistics about the road traffic accidents and deaths in Pakistan are alarming as the fatal occurrences here are a routine matter. “Pakistan ranks almost first in the Asia region for the most fatalities in road traffic accidents, which is a grim reality.”

He added that overall two per cent of all deaths in the country are traffic related, which is one of the highest in the world. Dr Aslan said the scarcity of neurosurgeons is more severe in developing countries. There are a total of 212 trained neurosurgeons in Pakistan. This averages to about one neurosurgeon for every 1.1 million people. Work load emanating from neuro trauma over burdens an already inadequate health care system, he explained.

Giving a few simple facts, he said that if an accident occurs while a driver and the passenger on the front seat do not fasten the seat belt, the head, face and the body will be thrown against the steering wheel, dashboard and windshield or be flown off the vehicle. Resultantly one will get brain, spinal, chest and limb injuries or worse. Impact caused by a car travelling at 60 kilometres per hour is equal to a vehicle falling from 15 meters height. Similarly in case of an accident without wearing a helmet, the centrifugal force will cause the head to hit the ground or solid objects. This would lead to concussion, haemorrhages, paralysis or death, said Dr Aslan.

He further explains that the seat belt allows decelerating at the same rate as the vehicle hence distributing the impact all over. A helmet complements the skull in protecting the brain. In Pakistan, the average belt users are less than 20 per cent including motorways, urban and rural cities as against 98 per cent in European and other western countries, a concerning figure, said Dr Aslan.

To a query about why the majority of the drivers do not take precautions, he opined that ignorance and personal choices about freedom and fate can be termed as the main reasons. Dr. Aslan emphasized on the use of seat belts and helmets to be made mandatory by law. Traffic sergeants ought to strictly enforce these rules and take punitive actions against those who do not follow the rules. The dividend of following these basic measures far exceeds the price borne by individuals, families and hospitals, he said.