In New Zealand each year more than 300 children either die or are hospitalised with injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. Around 90 of these are young Aucklanders, many of which sustain permanent disability or tragically are killed. Unfortunately, this number is not decreasing significantly, even though we know how to prevent many, if not all, of these injuries.
Dr Michael ShepherdWhat we see in Starship are devastating, life changing injuries, affecting whole families. They come from all around the Auckland and New Zealand, each with a story of their own. Without our medical assistance they would not return to health or, in some cases, hang on to life itself. Most do recover, but many return home to face months, if not years, of healing and physical rehabilitation. What we also see are the wider impacts on patients and whanau rippling out including emotional distress, guilt, time off work, missed school and other costs and lost opportunities.
The severity of trauma suffered by children is directly related to the speed of vehicles, whether children are injured in cars or while around roads. It’s common for us to see children with multiple broken bones, head injuries, severe internal injury to major organs such as the spleen. Kids are no match for a moving vehicle.
But it need not be so. Much of this is preventable. If there were lower speeds, better roads and footpaths we know that there would be much less road related deaths and injuries. The data on speed is very clear. There is a strong and exponential relationship between increasing speeds and crash risk and between increasing speeds and serious injuries or death. The faster vehicles travel, the more frequent and severe road crashes become, and the greater the level of injury and death that ensues. The evidence of the effect of speed reduction in reducing the trauma is strong, with some studies assessing the impact of 30km/hour zones finding a 50-70 per cent reduction in injuries and deaths in children.
Children are more at risk of injury and death on the roads. Whether as passengers or when walking or cycling these vulnerabilities are bigger, lower heads, softer rib cages, less ability to judge speed and cars that are designed to keep adults safe, less so kids.
We need our kids to be able to travel safely, particularly in footpaths as this has even further health benefits.
Starship welcomes Auckland’s Vision Zero transport safety strategy and will be working to help make it a success.
Every Aucklander who wants to do the right thing for our kids should do what they can to support it. How about we all start by reducing our speeds a little?
Dr Michael Shepherd
Director and Emergency Specialist