Motor Vehicle Injury: A Major Public Health Problem

Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA), otherwise known as Road Traffic Accident (RTA), is a term that refers to an unforeseen clash involving a vehicle with another vehicle, human, animal, or stationary body, including another parked vehicle. If the event results in any form of harm to a human, then it becomes Motor Vehicle Injury.

Car Accident

Car Accident

However, not all road traffic accidents will cause a motor vehicle injury, but way over 20% of all RTAs will lead to the injury or death of at least one person. By WHO’s 2004 definition, Motor Vehicle Accidents are defined as a collision involving at least one vehicle in motion on a public or private road that results in at least one person being injured or killed.

Read Also: 8 Tips for Recovery After an Accident

It is also any personal unplanned harm sustained by a human caused in, by, or as the direct outcome of the motion of a motor vehicle on a public or private road. The injured person could be the drivers or passengers of the vehicle or a passerby.


About 54 million people globally were involved in MVIs in 2013, playing a direct role in 1.4 million deaths from the 1.1 million deaths recorded in 1990. Roughly, an average of 1.35 million deaths is caused by road traffic accidents each year, causing 68,000 deaths in the under-five population (WHO, 2020). The most developed nations are recording a decline in death rates from MVI, while their developing counterparts are seeing a rise in fatality rates due to motor Vehicle Injuries.

From these records, while the fatality rate in Africa is the worst at 24.1 per 100,000 persons, the lowest fatality is in Europe with 10.3 per 100,000 persons. 93% of the global road fatalities is seen in just the low- and middle-income nations, although they possess just 60% of total automobiles in the world.

The graph for the age of drivers involved in RTAs has a “U” shape, implying that young adult drivers and elderly drivers are more involved in RTAs, probably due to youthful exorbitance and senile changes respectively, and it is the number one cause of death in children and young adults of 5-29 years and makes are three times more likely to be casualties of RTAs as compared to females.

Read Also: The 14 Most Common Automobile Accident Injuries

Truck accidents

The number of road accidents involving trucks seems to be less as compared to those involving cars. However, MVIs sustained in a truck accident seem to have a higher fatality rate. In the US, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 450,000 trucks were involved in an accident in 2017. These accidents led to over 4,000 deaths in 2017 and over 5,000 deaths in 2019, killing usually the driver of the other vehicle (70%), while over 340,000 recorded truck collisions resulted in fatal injuries. Surprisingly, the majority of truck accidents occurred during the daytime and in clear weather.

Common Motor Vehicle Injuries

The kind and severity of injury sustained during an automobile crash are dependent on the individual and nature of physical settings during the collision. Most RTAs will require an elaborate and quick compulsion between the two (or more) colliding parties. Hence, the damage done to your body is determined by the amount and direction of the force, which could twist and bend the body in an anti-anatomical manner.

Head Injuries

Concussions (Mild Brain Injury): This is the most common type of traumatic brain injury, it occurs when there is an unexpected rapid linear, angular, or rotational movement of the head, causing a great shock to the brain.

During RTA, you can have a concussion by hitting your head on any part of the car or by a rapid forward head movement, which could happen even when strapped by a seat belt. The problems you may experience after this are memory loss, headache, blurred vision, dizziness. Therefore, immediate treatment is very essential, just like in every other brain injury, to restore normalcy as quickly as possible.

Traumatic Brain Injuries: These injuries can vary from mild to very severe, depending on the level of damage to the brain. They can disrupt the brain’s normal processes and might shut it down if it’s very severe.

They are usually caused by a direct force impact on the brain, causing bleeding and death of some part of the brain.

Internal Injuries

Broken Bones

Due to the great extent of the colliding force, the skeletal part of the body might be twisted or weighed beyond its tensile strength can handle. This can easily dislodge skeletal components from their natural positions, causing fractures or dislocation. The continuous stay of these bones in an anti- anatomical position may aggravate the injury by cutting into raw tissues due to the raw edges of the bone or compression or occlusion of some blood vessels and nerves.

Surgery may be required, in most cases, to correct these deformities, which will usually take some weeks to months for it to heal.

Read Also: Immediate Steps to Be Taken After a Slip and Fall Injury

Internal Bleeding

Due to the softness of our body tissues, the impounding force from an auto crash can harm them and disrupt the blood vessels within it to bleed. This is a serious emergency case and is even more severe in certain extremely delicate organs.

Internal bleeding might lead to reduced body blood volume or death of the tissues that needed the blood. Therefore, these cases must get urgent attention.

Soft Tissue Injuries


This is simply a form of acceleration-deceleration injury of the neck that’s caused by a sudden distorting of the neck due to an external force, especially when your car was struck from behind. It might lead to a tear or strain in the muscles and ligaments of the neck and the severity is not constant. It may just appear as a constant severe neck pain that occurs after the impact or as simple as a neck discomfort. It may also have more severe consequences (Heather Counsell et al, 2013)

Bruises (Contusions)

This the expulsion of blood into the surrounding environment due to an external force, but it could also be a sign of some blood disorders. Bruises could be caused by a very minor injury that will leave you with an area of reddish or purple discoloration.

If the motor vehicle injury resulted in bruised alone, then it might resolve on its own in a few weeks without requiring intensive medical attention. Bruises may occur on the superficial aspect of any part of the body and the primary concern of such injury might just be cosmetics.

Neck/Back injuries

Just like whiplash, the intense rear-oriented force may also cause injury to the vertebrae and its intervertebral discs of the cervical and thoracic region. It could also cause herniation of some parts of the brain and will require urgent medical attention.

All medical examinations and screenings must always be done to exclude any life-threatening changes. Surgery and physical therapy may become essential, especially when movement is impaired.

Read Also: Why You Should Seek Professional Legal Help In Case Of Medical Negligence

Mental, psychological, and Emotional Injuries

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

This is a mental disorder that occurs when someone undergoes a traumatic event that might have posed a risk to their life. Road traffic accidents (RTAs) are a common cause of this, and you might develop a lifelong fear of vehicles that are in motion. You might also develop a phobia for unreal accident scenes, such as those in movies or in comics.

A mental therapist is suited to treat this, and symptoms may also wane out over time.


Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are the primary cause of Motor Vehicle Injuries. And, the causes include:

  • Mechanical vehicular faults.
  • Poor road infrastructure and terrain.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse by road users.
  • Unskilled or unprofessional driving.
  • Physical and health impairment of drivers.

Physical, Emotional, and Economic Burden

Outside the physical and emotional torments suffered by victims of RTAs, road traffic injuries also cause significant economic deficits to the victims, their families, and the nation. There is also a loss in economic productivity for those who died or are disabled by sustained injuries, as well as their family members who usually take off work or school to cater for their injured family member.

The funds that were supposed to be re-channeled into more productive activities end up being used for treatments and it’s reported that road traffic accidents scoop up 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of most countries.

The war against Motor Vehicle Injuries

Motor Vehicle Injuries are absolutely preventable by simply avoiding the causes and adhering to these tips, especially when sharing a road with large trucks. But a holistic multi-sectoral approach by the government can solve the majority of problems that lead to MVIs, which will involve sectors like Police, Education, Health, Transport, and Legislature to ensure full implementation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has mapped out various ways of intervention, especially in the less developed countries, to alleviate the health burden placed by Motor Vehicle Injuries. These interventions are aimed at supporting the Member States in the design, execution, and evaluation of road safety policies.

WHO also team up with their partners to assist with technical support for member nations. For instance, WHO has recently reached an agreement with Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) 2015-2019 to minimize fatalities and injuries from RTAs in the less developed nations–those who need it the most.

As of 2017, WHO had released Save LIVES, which is a road user-friendly safety package dwelling on evidence-based policy aimed at reducing fatalities. Save LIVES is targeted at Leadership, Infrastructure design, and improvement, speed management, Enforcement of traffic laws, vehicle safety standards, and post-crash Survival.

Read Also: Medical Malpractice: How Medication Errors Can Be Devastating


Motor Vehicle Injuries have long been a major burden on the Public health care system and the country’s economy at large. It does not only affect the financial aspect of the victim’s life but also has a debilitating effect on the individual’s physical and psychological state of mind.

These avoidable fatalities are a major cause of the shortage of manpower. This is because it still leaves its survivors with long-term health defects, like PTSD, amputation, blindness, loss of organs, body physical asymmetry, paralysis, panic attack, etc., and it’s a burden that must be lifted from the health sector at all cost, which can be done via the application of all feasible measures at hand.


World Health Organization (2020, 7th February) Road traffic injuries[blogpost]. Retrieved from

Counsell, H., & Johnson, S. (2013). Road traffic accidents: more than just whiplash?. BMJ case reports2013, bcr2012007832.



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