Road traffic accidents (RTAs) are unexpected traumatic events. Traumatic events can be defined as experiences that put either a person or someone at risk of serious harm or death. Road traffic accidents are a growing public health and development problem. Every year the lives of approximately 1,35 million people are cut short as a result of road traffic accidents, which means that on average 3242 people die daily on the world’s roads. Between 20 and 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries with many incurring disability and mental health problems as a result of their injury.
Road traffic injuries were the eleventh leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for 2,1 % of all deaths globally. Furthermore, these road traffic deaths accounted for 23% of all injury deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization’s most recent report on the matter predicts that road traffic fatalities will become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030 if nations do not hasten to take more progressive actions to address the problem than they have to date.
Public holidays have been heavily associated with loss of life due to road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe (Towindo and Bulla, 2011). Mutore and Nyambuya (2011) in their article Don’t be a stat this holiday cites Easter, heroes and festive season holidays as holidays that RTIs are particularly encountered. This is the time when most people have ample time to travel for social gatherings such as church gatherings and visiting friends and relatives thereby increasing traffic volume on roads. Occurrence of accidents is also related to time, most accidents occur from 0600-1800 hours (TSCZ, undated) though fatal accident occurs at night with greater frequency than during the day due to reduced visibility (Parirenyatwa, 2004).
More than half of all global road traffic deaths occur among young adults between 15 and 44 years of age. Motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety, and other vulnerable road users include pedestrians and cyclists. Road traffic accidents in low and middle-income countries is higher than in high-income countries. 73% of all road traffic fatalities are males. Zimbabwean’s cultural and social values put men at more risk of RTI; men are expected to provide for the family hence end up working more hours causing drivers exhaustion. Anxiety, stress, use of sedative drugs and sleeping problems also contribute to loss of concentration.
Road traffic accidents cause a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. When a person experience a traumatic event, the body’s defenses take effect and create a stress response. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life. Road traffic injuries causes economic losses to individuals, families and to the nation as a whole. The loses arise from the cost of treatment as well as lost productivity for those killed or disabled by their injuries and. Therefore, family members need to take time off from work or school in order to care for the injured. Road traffic injuries put significantly strains on the families.
Family relationships can also be affected by a traumatic event. For example, parents may feel unsure about how to help their children after the crisis. People respond in different ways to distressing events. However, sometimes people’s responses can clash. Conflict in coping styles can lead to arguments and misunderstandings if the family members aren’t sensitive to each other’s needs. Communication breaks down as each family member struggles in their own way to come to terms with what has happened. Children may not want to go to school as well as parents may not want to go to work. Household schedules tend to lapse. For example, chores are missed, regular mealtimes are disrupted or recreation is neglected. The usual arrangements for household responsibilities change. Many families are driven into poverty by the cost of prolonged medical care , the loss of a family bread winner or the extra funds needed to care for people with disabilities. Road crash survivors also causes their families, friends or other care givers to often suffer adverse social, physical and psychological effects such as depression and anxiety.
Previous empirical studies have confirmed that road traffic crash victims often suffer a combination of physical, psychological, financial, social, and legal adverse impacts from their crashes. Although physical lesions and broken bones often are healed with the passage of time, psycho-social complications arising from road traffic crashes often persist for a rather long time. Mayou and Bryant reported that a third of victims of injury vehicle crashes were still suffering psychological, social and legal adversities one year after their crashes. Survivors of RTAs are also put at an increased risk of a wide range of psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety and other social phobias.
Directly after the event people may also experience shock and denial. This can give way over several hours or days to a range of other feelings such as sadness, anger and guilt. Many people feel better and recover gradually. However, if these feelings persist, they can lead to more serious mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. RTAs have been argued to be the leading cause of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Norris, 1992), and researchers have suggested that in around 15-30% of collisions this results in genuine PTSD (Hall & Hall, 2006). The most common symptoms of PTSD are reexperiencing the event in nightmares or recurring memories, avoiding things that remind a person of the event, being constantly anxious and alert, feeling cut off from friends and family members, lack of concentration and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. The combination of serious injury, lost education or employment opportunities and financial worries can lead to the development of anxiety. The symptoms of anxiety can often gradually develop over time and can be expressed in different ways such as uncontrollable worry, intense fear, upsetting dreams and flashbacks of a traumatic event and obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour.
Depression it’s a serious condition that has an impact on both mental and physical health. Depression affects how a person feels about themselves, a person may lose interest in works, hobbies and doing things he or she normally enjoys. Some people may lack energy, have difficulty sleeping or sleep more than usual. Lacking in confidence, increased alcohol and drug use, loss or change in appetite, feeling worthless and helpless, feeling unhappy, sad or miserable and increased irritability, frustration ad moodiness are signs of depression.
Physical effects of a car accident such as cuts and burns causes cetain individuals to fear public places due to lowself estime. People who get into car accidents may suffer cuts from contact with sharp metal, broken glass and flying debris. Cuts may also leave permanent scars which can only be removed through expensive cosmetic surgery. Burns frequently occur in crashes in which the impact ruptures a fuel line or gas tank and, in turn, triggers an explosion. As the Mayo Clinic points out, burns can lead to permanent scarring as well as related problems such as contractures, or the tightening of skin, muscles and tendons due to scar tissue.
After a crash, a victim may experience changes in their personality and behavior that do not exactly fit into a neat category. For instance, many people suffer delusions after a traumatic event. In other words, they believe something to be true even when presented with evidence to the contrary. Confusion, delirium, hallucinations and other types of disorganized speech and behavior are other types of changes that can occur, according to Merck (2004). Stress from a traumatic event causes a wide range of sleep disorders, according to the National Sleep Foundation in 2016. The stress overstimulates the brain. In turn, it causes the release of neurochemicals such as epinephrine and adrenaline. Those neurochemicals can keep you awake, cause nightmares and flashbacks and, ultimately, disturb your sleep. Drug or alcohol misuse also add up to the impact of RTAs as the victims will be trying to relieve the stress from a traumatic event.
Road user factors, vehicle factors, road and road-sides factors determine the RTIs occurrence. Road user factors Jokonya’s presentation in 2017 showed that in 85% of RTIs in Zimbabwe human factors are involved. Reckless driving and violation of traffic laws are the human behaviours that influence RTIs occurrence. Among these human factors speeding and alcohol drinking and driving are the two key leading contributing factors (Odero et al, 2018). A high percentage of passengers fatalities are associated with the utilisation of public transport (Odero et al 1997). The use of public transport is the daily routine for most of poor Africans (Chen, 2010).
Socio economic status usually determines or influences individuals choice of mode of transport (Sharma, 2008). However, use of public transport is not safe due to lack of seat belts, overloading, speeding and poor road conditions especially in Zimbabwe where family owned commuters are used as public transport. Zimbabwe’s national transport policy does not favour walking; there are no pedestrian paths in the design of the roads. This could be also one of the risk exposures of pedestrians who contribute the second highest percentage of traffic deaths. Although human factors play a major role in causing accidents, studies have revealed that mental disorders increase the risk of road accidents
The most effective therapeutic approach for long-term, severe PTSD appears to be talking treatments with a clinical psychologist, in which the person with PTSD is encouraged to talk through their experiences in detail. This may involve behavioural or cognitive therapeutic approaches. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to relieve the depression which people who have survived trauma often experience at the same time.
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and some forms of counselling and psychotherapy work well for depression. Anti-depressants may also be recommended, either on their own or in combination with talking therapies.
In a family, each member will react to the traumatic event in their own way. If family members don’t understand each other’s experience, then misunderstandings, communication breakdowns and other problems can result. Even if you cannot understand exactly what another member is going through, being aware of common reactions and their effect on family life can help everyone cope better in the long run.
It can be difficult to talk to close family or friends after a traumatic event. You may not want to cause them any distress or may simply want some space to process it all. However, it is important to be around other people when you feel able to, as they can help with your recovery and wellbeing. You do not have to talk to them about the experience. If you don’t have anyone close by to talk to, you can contact one of the organizations below, who will be able to offer further help. It is important to look after your health and wellbeing. This can include taking a break or some time away to deal with your experience. You should also try and keep a healthy diet and stay away from drugs and alcohol, which can exacerbate the problem.
Having gone through these worrying problems of RTIs one can conclude that RTIs are a huge public health and development problem in Zimbabwe. The majority of RTIs affects young males who are bread winners. Reducing RTIs and fatalities will reduce suffering and free resources for development and more productive uses.
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