Road Safety Authority chair Gay Byrne has urged people to take care on the roads this Christmas after revealing one person suffers a life-altering brain injury every seven to 10 days after ‘surviving’ serious crashes.
The comment came as part of a safety awareness campaign aiming to reduce the number of tragedies on Irish roads over the coming weeks.
Launching the campaign at UCD in front of visiting transition-year students yesterday, Mr Byrne said the damage caused by accidents is not just linked to how many people die.
Joined by senior gardaí and those living with crash survivors, he said the reality is 36 people have already been left facing life-altering brain injuries this year — a situation which fails to gain the attention it deserves.
“When we hear or read about road collisions, more often than not it’s because someone has died. But what we often forget are those who are seriously injured in these collisions.
“With a head injury, the effects are not always immediately apparent.
“The consequences these people live with can be invisible. But they’re not invisible, they’re devastating — to the individual, their families and their communities,” Mr Byrne said.
The comments were echoed via video-link by David O’Brien, clinical director of the national neurosurgery centre in Beaumont, who said despite progress in reducing the number of road deaths the unit has already seen 36 people with severe “head trauma” this year.
Of those, 13 were cyclists who were not wearing helmets; 10 were drivers, seven were pedestrians and five were motorbike drivers.
Sean Dixon, 21, from Ballymun in Dublin, told the campaign launch that he is one of the people living with a life-altering brain injury due to a “non-fatal” accident.
In Jul 2009, the army reservist was a passenger on a motorbike which was involved in a serious crash near Howth in north Dublin.
The then 19-year-old said he blacked out and “remembers nothing” about what happened until he woke up in Beaumont to see a hospital porter in front of him.
After a slow period of rehabilitation — which saw him “lose all my friends,” suffer from unexplained aggression and memory loss — Mr Dixon is recovering and learning to adapt to his new situation.
However, while he said the damage may not be noticeable, the incident has had a deep impact on his life.
“You would never know by looking at me that I have a brain injury. I can walk down the street and people would think there is nothing wrong.
“But after the accident, there were a lot of consequences for me.
“It has affected my relationships with my family, and I had to leave my job in the army. The effect it has had on my life is huge,” he said.
Between 1977 and 2012, a total of 76,129 people have suffered some form of serious injury as a result of a road accident.
This includes 485 people last year alone, triple the rate of road fatalities.
Road accidents and serious brain injuries:
* Road fatalities: 175 this year to date, 152 in 2012.
* Road fatalities breakdown this year to date: 88 drivers, 30 passengers, 28 pedestrians, 24 motorcyclists, and five cyclists.
* Brain trauma transfers to National Neurosurgery Centre in Beaumont: 250 this year to date.
* Total number as a result of road traffic collisions: 36.
* Road traffic accident brain trauma breakdown: 13 cyclists, 10 drivers or passengers, seven pedestrians, five motorcyclists.
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