Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Accident Reporting, investigation and victim compensation: Measures at reducing road traffic crashes



By Aina Tolulope

Transportation Safety is a basic requirement for every nation and her citizens regardless of its socio-economic capacity, population and technological development. Road transport is the most popular, common and very accessible mode to over 98% of Nigeria’s population. The near total dependence of the Nigerian people on road transport however has created a lot of attendant associated problems. Principal of these being road traffic crashes.
The road traffic crashes are a major but neglected global public health problem, requiring concerted efforts for effective and sustainable prevention. Of all the systems that people have to deal with on a daily basis, road transport is the most complex and the most dangerous. The number of people killed in road traffic crashes worldwide each year is almost 12 million, while the number injured could be as high as 50 million. Every day around the world almost 16,000 people die from all types of injuries.
The African Union’s report on the state of Transport Sector Development in Africa (2008), also noted that road traffic crashes are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality accounting for over one million deaths per year. The FRSC has started to mark the Global UN Road Safety Week and Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) victims Remembrance Day which is in line with SERVICOM initiative. However, there are still difficulties in accident reporting and investigation.

Accident Reporting in Developing Countries
It should be noted that in developing countries like all African countries. Road crashes are under-reported. The most comprehensive reported cases are classified in Nigeria under the following sub-heads:
- Number Injured
- Number Killed
- Number of Casualties

Problems in Traffic Accident Reporting
§   
Under-reporting of Road Traffic Accidents
There is high level of under-reporting in the national accident database. About 50% of all reportable injury accidents are reported and included in official statistics. An accident is reportable when it causes an injury that is not regarded as inconsequential. Most of those who are involved in accidents causing reportable injuries are not aware of the duty or have the means to report these accidents. Serious injuries, accidents were children are involved, accidents where only one person is injured and accidents on state, local and rural roads are less frequently reported than other accidents. Traffic accidents involvingmotorcycles and bicycles have a very low reporting rate.

Pillar of Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020)
The African Road Safety Action Plan is organized under the pillar of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. There are 5 pillars but emphasis will be placed on only Pillar ONE, which is the Road Safety Management which concerns the institutional framework, needed to implement road safety activities, and thereby sets the oversight of all other pillars.

Pillar 1: Road Safety Management
A very limited number of countries have established and implemented the envisaged road safety policies, as well as the necessary institutional framework, appropriate participation of the private sector and civil society.  The Decade of Action will provide the opportunity for African countries to intensify and develop activities towards building their institutional capacity, especially at the state and local government levels, with appropriate research, monitoring and evaluation.

Accident Reporting Procedure
The purpose of this procedure is to ensure the consistent, timely reporting of vehicle accidents. It covers the reporting of every vehicle accident involving injury or damage to a government vehicle, or private vehicle if on-site or off-site.

Procedures:
      1. Anyone involved in a vehicle accident must immediately report it:
a.       On-site
b.      Off-site
2.      Forms filling and Recordkeeping
3.      Render aid to the injured
4.      Notify the nearest law enforcement agency immediately if accident involves a fatality, injury

Linking Police and Hospital Road Safety Data
Need for more information on traffic injuries through Police and Hospital sources
It is essential to know the true casualty total for:
1)      Enabling road safety to be highlighted as a priority for action and developing robust arguments for the adoption of interventions
2)      Efficiently deploying road safety interventions across areas of higher risk and/or where the greatest potential improvement can be achieved, such as in different road user groups, area types (urban/ rural), or road types etc.
3)      Estimate medical costs, the burden of road crashes in terms of future disability, and the cost/ benefit ratio for schemes to reduce casualties.
4)      International comparisons
Improving crash data systems is also an important priority of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and to “improve the quality of road safety data collected (UN road safety collaboration, 2011). Improve the data linkages between police, transport and health services to address underreporting are also essential.

Issues with Police Data
The police do not collect information on all non-fatal crashes. Using hospital data in addition to police data can provide valuable information, including:
·         Some basic information on casualties not reported to the police, such as age, gender and vehicle type.
·         Better understanding of the total number of casualties and injury severity
·         In-depth understanding of the medical consequences of particular types of crash, if police and hospital records are linked.

Issues with Hospital Data
·         Data systems may differ from hospital to hospital (and even within different hospital departments), and data may not be gathered into a national system.
·         Inevitably, medical staffs do not always treat data entry as high priority.
·         There may be ethical concerns about releasing confidential medical information. Again, different hospitals may have different policies in this area.

Arrival at an accident Scene
The following steps should be taken upon arrival at the scene of the accident. While en-route to the scene, the investigator should obtain as much preliminary information as possible concerning the accident. Such information includes:
·         Location
·         Time of notification
·         Who notified the investigator and how
·         Weather and visibility conditions
·         General information in terms of the seriousness of the accident- injuries
·         Whether or not additional support is proceeding to the scene, such as ambulance or additional Police patrols
·         By obtaining such information prior to the arrival at the scene, the investigators may more quickly and efficiently respond to the needs of the situation

Location of the Patrol Vehicle
The police vehicle should be positioned so as not to cause further traffic congestion or accidents.

Care for injured and protect the scene
Determine the extent of injuries, if any, to accident victims; render first aid; and request medical assistance, if necessary.

Establish Traffic Control and Request for Additional Support if necessary
Traffic control is essential at the accident scene to prevent further accidents or injury.

Essential Elements of an Investigation
The accident form when completed, contains the essential investigative elements who, what, when, where, why, and how the accident happened. It may be used alone, or supported by scaled diagrams, photographs and/or statements. This form is one of the special tools needed to clearly explain what happened at the accident scene. 

Securing Facts at Scene
After completing the initial steps and securing the scene of the accident, the investigator obtains and records facts needed to complete their reports to arrive at logical and objective conclusions. The main thrust of the investigation is to determine whether or not there was a violation of the law. Other activities include: moving vehicle and marking wheels; vehicle search and inspection.

Identify and Preserve Fragile Evidence and retrace the path of vehicle
Any fragile evidence that can be damaged, altered, destroyed or removed from the scene by any willful or negligent act must be identified and secured. Alcoholic beverage containers inside a vehicle should also be secured. Evidence should be tagged, marked and secured.

Take Statements and Record Observations at the Scene
Questioning and taking statements of witnesses and victims should be done at the scene.
Sketches are made
The sketches may range from a simple sketch on the accident form, to detailed scaled drawings on separate sheets.
Measurements
Accurate measurements are necessary to relocate and relate exact points in an accident scene. There are two methods of making measurements, they are:
1.      Triangulation Method: this is the best method to use on unpaved roads without clean-cut edges or on sharp curves and irregular intersections.
2.      Coordinate Method: this method is best used in roadways with well-defined edges.

Photography
Photographs are used to supplement an accident investigation and the written report concerning the accident. When used in court testimony, they help indicate and explain the chain of events. Photographs should represent what is actually seen by the investigator, thus scale; angles of view, colour and light should be as nearly like what, is seen as possible. To be admissible in court, the investigator taking and using photographs should follow these three steps:
a.       Authentication: photographic evidence will be authenticated in court by the officer who takes the pictures.
b.      Marking: The photographs must be marked for proper identification. 
c.       Relevancy: All pictures must be clear, sharp and free of distortion. They must be relevant to the investigation. Photographs support the testimony.

Inspection of Vehicles
After sketching, measuring and photographing the accident scene, the investigator should begin his inspection of the vehicle(s) condition and damage(s). The purpose is to obtain supporting information.
Actions after gaining facts
1.      Clear the scene, Vehicles removed from the scene
2.      Additional searches
3.      Completing  investigation and conclusion made
4.      Special considerations e.g. Alcohol
5.      Medical
Relevance of Statistical Analysis in Accident Reporting and Investigation
Statistical analysis enhances the traffic manager into understanding inferences in specialized fields especially in behavioral attributes containing statistical symbols, concepts and ideas in accident management and mitigation.
Problems facing Accident Reporting and Investigation in Nigeria
·           Inadequate skill to cope with data analysis and data base management
·           Enormous Financial involvement
·           Technicalities and Logistics

Benefits of Accident Investigation and Accident Reporting
·         Determining the exact cause of the incident and likelihood of recurrence
·         To prevent future incidents
·         Bolster employee confidence and improve public relations.
·         Prevent recurrence for immediate and long-range action to remedy causes.
·         Gather information, search for & establish facts
·         Isolate essential contributing factors
·         Improvement of operational & safety procedures
·         Raises safety awareness level
·         Change to safety programmes, procedures and equipment design
·         Determine contributing factors, root causes and implement corrective actions

Benefits of Accident Victim Compensation
·        
           
Non-Earner Benefit: If you suffer a complete inability to carry on your normal activities because of the injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision and if you are eligible, this benefit will compensate you.
·         
 Care-giver Benefit: If you cannot continue as a primary caregiver and if you are eligible, this benefit will reimburse you for expenses you incur.
·        
 Medical And Rehabilitation Benefit: This benefit will pay for reasonable and necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses that are not covered by a government health plan  or a private health plan that you may have through work or your spouse.
·         
 Attendant Care Benefit: If you are unable to carry out certain personal care activities (such as bathing, toileting, dressing or feeding yourself) as a result of severe injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision and if you are eligible, this benefit will pay reasonable and necessary expenses for an aide, attendant or long-term care facility.
·        
 Other Expenses Benefit: If you are eligible, this benefit may pay for expenses such as lost educational expenses, the cost of certain people visiting you during treatment and recovery and reasonable costs related to house-keeping or home maintenance required due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision.
·          
Death and Funeral Payments Benefit: There are lump-sum payments available for survivors of a person killed in a motor vehicle collision and to help pay for a funeral.


Recommendations and Conclusions
·           Training and retraining of Traffic Officials and Accident Response Agencies could be achieved through short courses such as workshops and seminars
·           The culture of scientific data gathering, analysis and use should be encouraged and sustained in road-accident reporting and investigation developments.
·           The Government and stakeholders in the transport sector in Nigeria should support financially in victim compensations and insurance.
·           Establishment of a Road Accident Fund that is reasonable, equitable, affordable and sustainable system for the payment of compensation or benefits in the event of the injury or death of persons in road accidents is essential for sustainable development.

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