The Impact of Road Crashes on the Healthcare System

With studies from the Department of Transport and Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) showing that a greater portion of crashes on South African roads is caused by human factors, it is now time for road users to understand the major impact that road collisions and accidents have on South Africa’s healthcare system. I

n 2008, the Automobile Association (AA) published a study prepared by engineer and roads specialist, Dr. John Sampson, to assess the road network and maintenance cost over the last 20 years. This research stated that South Africa needed R32billion per annum to keep roads in good condition – far less than the cost of traffic crashes.

With an already strained public healthcare system that is supported by a tax-paying minority, the effects of road crashes not only impacts on the lives of family and friends of those involved, they also affect the cost of proper, adequate healthcare provision.

 The AA says that with the cost of both private and public healthcare increasing, motorists and road users now need to be cognisant of the economic ramifications of irresponsible behaviour on the road. “Road accidents do not only affect those who are directly involved in them, but other elements of society too. There are direct costs such as emergency services, hospital, and funeral costs to less quantifiable costs such as loss of output in the labour sector, insurance, training and rehabilitation.

“We cannot control the condition of the roads we use, and we will rarely correctly anticipate the driving of other motorists, so it is up to each one of us to make an individual effort, collectively, that will have a greater impact on our healthcare system and infrastructure.

“ The estimation of unit costs of road traffic accidents in South Africa showed that the total cost of injuries and fatalities in 1998 amounted to nearly R23.8 billion. Fast forward to 2009, this figure has risen to an incredible R112 billion. Current fatal crashes are estimated to cost R 1.23 million per incident. Damage only crashes cost in the region of R 74 000 per crash. Ronald says that these figures indicate a startling reality: the healthcare system in the country is being placed more and more under pressure as the crash rate continues unabated.

“We now have more cars on our roads coupled with a deteriorated road network and the healthcare sector is going to experience increased pressure and more casualty and injury admissions. During 2008, 960 000 crashes were reported to the SAPS – this needs urgent change. Everyone has to be a participant in reducing the crash rate by at least 50% over the next ten years,” concludes the AA.

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126

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