Auto drivers may become life savers

Auto drivers may become life savers

The first hour after a road accident is considered the most crucial time which decides whether the victim will survive or not, say health and traffic experts.

Considering the traffic on Delhi’s roads, taking an accident victim to the hospital in minimum time is often a challenge for the ambulances.

In its 201st report the Law Commission said 50 per cent of the fatalities on India’s roads could have been averted had the victims been provided with timely care in the first ‘golden’ hour of the accident.

As many as 2,199 road accident deaths were recorded in Delhi during 2014, the maximum among all the cities in the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. 

“In India an ambulance takes 35 minutes to more than an hour to reach the victim, while in western countries, the time is much less,” says Saji Cherian, the director (operations) of SaveLife Foundation, an NGO working in the field of road safety and emergency care.

Considering this aspect, Delhi government mooted a proposal three weeks back in which autorickshaw drivers who take road accident and trauma victims to hospital will be rewarded with Rs 2,000.

The reason cited by the government is that autorickshaws are likely to reach the victims before an ambulance. In fact, after a police control room van, the autorickshaw is considered the fastest way to get to the victims, says a Delhi Transport Ministry official.

“The idea was mooted by the Transport Minister. We are currently at a planning stage. After all the modalities are done, we will implement the scheme,” says a Delhi Health Ministry official.

“We are also planning to give auto drivers life-support training and ask them to carry first aid kits,” the official adds.

Terming it as a positive move, Delhi Traffic Police Joint Commissioner A K Ojha, also urged the bystanders to lend their hand rather than “keep standing at the spot” when an accident takes place.

“During an accident, we often see crowd of curious onlookers gather around the victim in no time. However, very few bother to take the victim to the nearest hospital or provide the victim first aid on the spot,” Ojha says.

Putting the blame equally on the laws of the land, Ojha says there is  fear in the minds of bystanders that if they take the victim to hospital they will become a part of the investigation and police will treat them as eyewitnesses to the accident.

However, he says that things are expected to change after a recent Supreme Court order related to the protection of Good Samaritans.

“After a Supreme Court judgement, a bystander can give his evidence to the police as per his convenience of time and place. They will no longer have to compulsorily come to the police station immediately after the accident,” he adds.

SaveLife foundation’s Saji Cherian says: “In 2012, we filed a petition for the protection of good Samaritans in court, as people hesitate in helping the accident victims.”

According to Cherian there are three aspects to why people don’t help the accident victims.

Fear of police: More than 88% people they surveyed cite fear of police in helping the injured person.

Detention at hospital: If a person takes an injured person to a hospital, the hospital doesn’t let him go until he pays the fees for the medical treatment. “They effectively detain a person and don’t let him go until the police show up,” says Cherian.

Long judicial process: An accident case runs for years and the person who takes the injured to hospital could be asked to come to the court as witness.

Cherian says that the “chain of survival” of the victim starts immediately after the accident occurs.

“First, on ground victim care by the bystanders through providing the victim first aid and calling the ambulance. Second, ambulance care where the victim is taken into an ambulance which contains all the necessary equipment to sustain him for at least an hour. And third, what kind of steps does the hospital take once the victim has reached there.”

Calling the three stages as “fractured”, Cherian says the ambulances in India are not enough, while the bystanders hesitate to provide immediate help.

Cherian highlights explains that the guidelines say that Good Samaritans need not to reveal their personal details, like full name or address, when they inform police about an accident. Police have to allow the Good Samaritans to leave after they have provided the information available to them, and no further questions will be asked of them if they don’t want to be witnesses.

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