Dr Toko Potelwa
3 minute read
31 Jul 2019
4:06 pm

Most road accidents don’t happen ‘by accident’

Dr Toko Potelwa

Severe car crashes leave accident victims and their families with the daunting task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives.  

An image of Mbali Ntuli's damaged car at the accident scene on the N3 between Pietermartzburg and Durban | Image: Twitter

Road accidents cripple our economy, remove economically active individuals, place a burden on families, and leave victims with severe injuries that require extensive medical care. Families are left helpless with no plan and require support and care from government services.

Accidents don’t happen by accident but have factors that contribute to them. The contributing factors are often driving under the influence of alcohol, distraction due to texting and lawlessness. Over the past two decades, mobile phone use while driving is increasingly becoming the second-biggest cause of vehicle crashes.

Drunk driving continues to be a deterrent to carnage-free roads. In fact, the World Health Organisation notes that 58% of road crashes in South Africa are as a result of drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. This means over one in two road crashes are alcohol related. This is a sobering statement for all road users. Or, it should be, yet driving under the influence is generally treated lightly by many people. Eradicating drunk driving is crucial to build a culture of safety in road use.

Severe car crashes leave accident victims and their families with the daunting task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives.

The Road Accident Fund (RAF) steps in to alleviate the burden of accidents through its post-crash care programme.

The programme is designed to rehabilitate people who are left severely injured and need to adapt from being normal active individuals to paraplegic or quadriplegic. Apart from compensation relating to the accident, the Fund issues an Undertaking Certificate (an undertaking certificate is a contractual agreement between the claimant and the RAF to provide for current and future medical needs that the claimant may have relating to injuries sustained in a road accident).

This assists claimants who require ongoing medical treatment by offering an undertaking to access such treatment and rehabilitative services once liability has been determined.

Through the caregiver programme, the claimant can appoint caregivers to assist them with their daily activities, especially claimants whose lives have been completely altered by accidents such as people living disability eg, paraplegia, and quadriplegia. The caregiver duties include taking care of the physical wellbeing (such as hygiene and exercise) of the claimant, helping the claimant with taking their medication and assisting with travelling needs during transportation of claimants for medical and/or rehabilitation assessments.

Other interventions by the Fund may include:

  • Structural changes to the house, eg, ramps, bathroom modifications; motor vehicle modification; and access to assistive devices such as a wheelchairs.
  • The claimants have access to case managers (who are professionally trained nurses) who visit accident victims during their recovery at home, providing full ongoing support for claimants with serious injuries.

As the Fund, we process thousands of claims where lives have been lost or changed permanently and the people who really suffer are accident victims and their loved ones; they are the ones who need our care and constant support throughout. Programmes such as post-crash care allow us to fully display what it means to care.

The RAF spent over R7.5 million on medical care and issued over 3004 Undertaking Certificates during the 2017/18 financial year for seriously injured claimants.

As we commemorate Mandela Month, let us Take Action; Inspire Change and Always Remember to practise safe driving habits, and cultivate a culture of safety, not only for ourselves but for our families and the many other people we share our roads with.

Potelwa is General Manager Medical Services at the Road Accident Fund

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