Society of Emergency Medicine of India defines a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) as “an event that occurs on a way or street open to public traffic, resulting in one or more persons being injured or killed, where at least one moving vehicle is involved.”
So the RTA could be a collision between vehicles; between vehicles and pedestrians; between vehicles and animals; or between vehicles and geographical or architectural obstacles. It involves high human suffering and socio-economic costs in terms of premature deaths, injuries, and loss of productivity, and is part of a larger disease classification called unintentional injuries.
According to SEMI, which is affiliated to the International Federation for Emergency Medicine, the rapid expansion of the Indian road network, a surge in motorisation, and the rising population have contributed to the increasing numbers of road accidents, and road accident injuries and fatalities.
While the road network in India, the numbers of registered motor vehicles and the country's population have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3.4 per cent, 9.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively from 2001 to 2011, the number of road accidents increased at a compound annual growth rate of 2.1 per cent in the same period, accidents by 5.8 per cent and casualties by 2.4 per cent.
The World Health Organisation reckons RTAs to be the sixth leading cause of death and the third highest cause of disability-adjusted life years in India by 2020, which far exceeds the burden from any single infectious disease.
Of the over 5 million trauma-related deaths and 100 million disabilities occurring annually, 90 per cent occur in low and middle income countries.