Social media platforms can be a novel source for road traffic incident and injury data

NAIROBI, Kenya: Road traffic injury statistics are the foundation to monitor the progress of the five pillars of the UN Road Safety Strategy – road safety management, safer vehicles, safer road users, post-crash response, and safer driving environments.

This was the discussion at a webinar led by Dr Benjamin Wachira, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Aga Khan University.

In Kenya, over a quarter of trauma-related deaths are a result of road traffic crashes. However, these statistics may have issues: according to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety, road traffic fatality numbers are often unreliable.

“The issue is that we do not have robust data collection systems for road traffic crashes,” says Dr Benjamin Wachira, “we noted that data from the police and mortuaries was inaccurate plus there was no follow up to collect data from hospitals. In 2018, the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, with AKU as a partner, decided to use Twitter to get data on road traffic crashes. This is because half of internet users in Kenya use the platform.”

The team set up a Twitter handle and partnered with similar initiatives to track data on traffic accidents. The Injury Prevention and Safety Initiative, @TIPSIKenya on Twitter, amassed a huge following while gathering data on road accidents, injuries and fatalities. Every month, the data is collated and analysed and shared on their website.

Last year, the team partnered with researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island to do an in-depth analysis of the data. Findings showed 3,669 unique road crashes took place in Kenya between 2018 and 2020. Majority of these happened between 7am and 5pm including the weekends. There were 1,985 injuries and 1,549 fatalities.

“Emergencies occur every day in Kenya regardless of whether we have the systems or resources to provide the appropriate care or not. One of the objectives of our research was to use this data to advocate for a responsive emergency care system framework within our existing healthcare system for road crash victims,” says Dr Wachira.

The research outcomes led to recommendations that the Kenyan government invest in public ambulances equipped to manage road traffic accidents and optimized to handle trauma cases. At the same time, there is a need for the development of post-crash care policies and public awareness of emergency care systems and centres.

“We have partnered with Google to map trauma and emergency care centres within the country. This is an ongoing process and the information is available through the mobile app Casualty developed by the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation. The application is free to download and provides the user with emergency care information and basic first aid guidelines.”

These innovative approaches and crucial data have been shared with policymakers, county government officials and stakeholders in the transport and road sector.

“All this data provides opportunities to advocate for improved roadways and emergency care health systems that can manage people injured in road traffic crashes and their traumatic injuries,” Dr Wachira concludes.

Dr Wachira is a founding board member of the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation.

Lead photo: Dr Benjamin Wachira, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Aga Khan University in action. Photo: Aga Khan University.


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