KARACHI: With the stitched head, multiple fractures in a leg and an arm, and a big red spot in one eye, 22-year-old Owais is still lucky to have survived a serious road traffic accident. He is recuperating in the neurosurgery ward of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).
Standing at his bedside is his mother with a fractured leg. “I was going back home with my elder son after visiting Owais in the hospital that the motorbike we were riding was hit by a rickshaw and I fell to the ground,” she says when asked how she has got the fracture.
Owais, a factory worker and resident of Lyari, was also on a motorbike (without a helmet) when he had an accident in Clifton. “I don’t exactly remember how I had the accident,” he says while trying to catch his breath.
It’s the 10th day on Wednesday since his admission to the hospital and, according to doctors, he required a long time for complete recovery. That means in the days ahead the poor family, which has already lost a source of income, has to arrange medical expenses. And though Owais has survived the accident, uncertainty exists about his complete rehabilitation and future life.
The family are not alone in their misery; most patients in the ward suffered road traffic injuries and have similar stories to narrate. But what is common in all these accounts is the involvement of motorbikes in the accidents.
“Around 150 road traffic injury cases are reported daily at the hospital. Of them, 10 patients require admission. Most accidents involve young men (aged between 15 and 30) riding motorbikes,” says head of the JPMC neurosurgery department Dr S. Raza Khairat.
According to him, 30 per cent to 40pc victims with severe head injuries (relating to all types of cases) and 10pc to 12pc reported with other complications died. Two major factors contributing to this high number of fatalities is the failure to wear helmets and poor handling of critical patients.
Three young men are battling for their life in the intensive care unit of the hospital. All had an accident while ‘wheeling’. “We have become psychic treating such patients daily. You should come on a Saturday when the ward is full of such youngsters. Their families cry hysterically when they see them dying, but they are reluctant to accept the fact that it’s because of their negligence that they had lost a loved one,” said Ahmed Ali Shah, serving as a nurse at the ICU.
In the absence of government initiatives to improve the public transport system, more and more people are turning to motorbikes, using them as a family transport, and the number of accidents and fatalities is increasing.
According to the 2014 statistics of the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre, which collects data of road accidents from five public and private sector hospitals of the city, 24,360 accidents and 30,274 injuries were reported last year. Over 1,000 people (1,067 to be specific) died in traffic accidents (the number could be much higher considering the fact that the data is based on information received from hospitals that receive brought-dead cases).
In 2013, 1,130 people died in road traffic accidents.
Riders/pillion riders formed the largest group most harmed by traffic accidents as 565 people of that group had fatal accidents last year while 25,855 people suffered injuries in cases involving motorbikes. Others who died in accidents were: 310 pedestrians, 113 passengers, 26 drivers, and 51 unknown.
Other vehicles found involved in fatal traffic accidents were bus, minibus, coach (133), car (156) and truck (79).
According to the data, there was a 3pc increase in fatalities in this group last year than in 2013.
The number of motorbike riders not wearing helmets increased from 13,271 in 2013 to 16,681 last year. Only 1,610 motorbike riders were found wearing helmets.
The roads reporting most accidents were the National Highway, Korangi Road, Sharea Faisal, Superhighway, Hub River Road, Korangi Industrial Area road, Mauripur Road, SITE Avenue, M.A Jinnah Road, University Road and Manghopir Road.
The Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre functions at the JPMC in collaboration with the Aga Khan University Hospital. Other partner hospitals are: the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, the Civil Hospital Karachi and the Liaquat National Hospital.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2015