Road accidents have major effect on families

  • Deborah Condon

Road traffic accidents can have devastating psychological effects on the families of victims, a major conference in Dublin has heard.

The Road Safety Authority's (RSA) annual international road safety conference, which is being held in Dublin Castle today (May 26), is focusing on the ‘human impact of road collisions'. It is being attended by almost 200 people, including international experts, victims of road accidents and family members who have lost a loved one in a collision.

Speaking at the conference, Brigitte Chaudhry, coordinator of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR), presented findings from a FEVR study on the impact of road deaths and injuries.

It found that depression, anger, suicidal feelings, anxiety attacks and loss of drive are more common in the relatives of victims left with disabilities than the victims themselves.

"The FEVR study shows that it's not just the victim who suffers as a result of a serious injury or death on our roads. Whilst negative emotions obviously affect the person involved in the collision, our study shows that the families of these victims often present more pronounced psychological suffering than the victims themselves," she explained.

Also speaking at the conference, Dr Edward Hickling, an author and clinical psychologist from New York, presented his research on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people who are seriously injured in road collisions.

"In 2003, we published research from our study of 158 people who had been injured in road collisions. The aim of the research was to get a better understanding of the psychological impact of such injuries and specifically, the presence of PTSD as a result of the collision.

"After working with these people for two years after their collision, our study found that 40% had PTSD and 90% developed driving difficulties. In fact, some studies show that up to six years after their collision, as many as 40% of victims don't improve, even with treatment," Dr Hickling said.

Also speaking at the conference, RSA chairman, Gay Byrne, described today's conference as ‘new and different' because it is not focusing on the causes of road collisions, ‘but on the people who are affected by them'.

"It's not a nice or easy thing to say, but all too often we talk about the people who have died on our roads. We don't always think of the people who are seriously injured or the impact this has on families, relationships, communities and futures. Today gives us an opportunity to better understand the real human impact of road collisions and how we can work together to prevent further needless tragedy on our roads," he commented.


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