A group of doctors will soon be equipped with a kit that could help them provide lifesaving first aid to casualties they encounter while driving.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Doctors for Road Safety, an NGO recently-established by doctors who know too well the devastating consequences of traffic accidents.

Data from the past 15 years shows a slow but rising trend in fatal road traffic accidents, where 2016 was a record year with 23 fatalities. In the first half of this year there were 13 fatalities – up from nine in the same period in 2017, which saw a total of 19 fatalities.

According to the National Statistics Office, there were 14,940 accidents in 2017, slightly down from 15,017 in 2016. However, the number of injuries increased by 8.3 per cent to 405 over the same period in 2016.

Still, statistics do not provide a true picture of the aftermath of traffic accidents.

In the first half of this year there were 13 fatalities

For at least three decades, consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ray Gatt and medical consultant Tonio Piscopo have treated the consequences of speeding, the use of mobile phones behind the wheel and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Some are not as lucky and do not even make it to hospital, while others have ended up with permanent disabilities.

“The casualties’ bones are not the only broken things. Most often, their lives end up broken and they spend years picking up the pieces,” Dr Piscopo noted.

He recalled a case that involved a broken leg which led to five years of complications, caused, among others, by ensuing infections.

While doctors have been trained in treating injuries, they have also been taught that prevention is more cost-effective.

So D4RS, for whom one death is one too many, is trying to reach out to people through educational campaigns and collaborates, among others, with the Malta Medical Students Association.

The NGO is also working on getting general practitioners on board as they are the ones who engage the most with the public and could therefore help promote road safety with their patients.

But while it also raises awareness about the need of enforcement and safe road engineering, the doctors felt that they needed to take an even more proactive approach.

Following an awareness campaign about drink-driving last year, D4RS will this year hold its first seminar for a group of 30 doctors who find themselves on the site of a road traffic accident.

Mr Gatt explained that several times, doctors who stopped to help out the victims were limited in what they could do unless they had the adequate equipment.

Held in collaboration with the Association of Emergency Physicians of Malta, and with the support of Mater Dei Hospital, the seminar will also see the distribution of a kit that includes lifesaving equipment to help with airway management, loss of limb and bleeding, among others.

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