Press Notice
Wednesday 27th October 1999


Executive Summary
Full report (.pdf format)

A new ETSC review compiled by leading medical experts in Europe concludes that several thousand road deaths across the EU might be prevented by optimal post-impact care. The state of the art review of post impact care recommends a series of actions at EU and national levels.

The key conclusions are:

  • Some road casualties sustain injuries which are unsurvivable in any circumstances and with any type of care, but the majority of crashes are technically survivable.
  • Research shows that the quality of post-crash management of road casualties has an important influence on whether the casualty survives or incurs disability.
  • Differences in emergency care may be contributing to the large variations in fatality risk amongst Member States.

Professor Walter Buylaert, Chairman of ETSC's Post Impact Care Working Party said: "The health sector has a key role to play in reducing the number of deaths and disabilities following road crashes. While optimal post impact care is a relatively under-researched road safety strategy, studies show that the quality and effectiveness of emergency medical care is fundamental to the chance and quality of survival."

Professor Herman Delooz, President of the European Society for Emergency Medicine and a member of ETSC's Working Party said: "If we are going to realise the ultimate goal of avoiding preventable post crash death, limiting injury severity and re-integrating the crash victim into the community, then this area needs much greater attention from health professionals and policymakers than it has received to date."

The key recommendations of the review to improve the chain of help to patients injured in road crashes are directed both at the EU and Member States. They include:

  • The European emergency number 112 should be applied by all EU countries (in addition to existing national numbers).
  • National Highway Codes should include advice on how lay bystanders can assist.
  • EU information exchange on best practice should be carried out concerning the type and operation of emergency medical dispatch systems.
  • EU research is needed to ascertain the right balance between action at the scene and during transport versus emergency and surgical treatment after arrival in hospital.
  • Better training standards could be defined at EU level for ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians.
  • EU research-based guidelines on a range of issues associated with hospital trauma care are needed.
  • Member States should collect data for auditing the performance of the Emergency Medical Services. The EU-financed European Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System (EHLASS) would provide one appropriate and possible mechanism for carrying this out. The Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) should be used in hospitals to record injury severity and post-injury measures of disability need to be included in routine hospital statistics.
  • Regulations for performing post mortems in all road traffic fatalities should be formulated.
  • Best practice should be identified and information exchange carried out in rehabilitation treatment programmes.

For further information contact:
ETSC Brussels office: + 32 (0)2 230 4106
Professor Walter Buylaert: +32 (0) 9240 2742
Professor Herman Delooz: +32 (0) 1634 3927

ETSC gratefully acknowledges the contributions of members of ETSC's Post Impact Care Working Party to this review:

Prof. Walter Buylaert (Chairman) Prof. Anne-Lise Christensen
Prof. Herman Delooz Prof. R. Jan A. Goris
Prof. Bernard Nemitz Prof. Michael Nerlich
Prof. Jon Nicholl Prof. Peter Sefrin
Prof. Franco Servadei Prof. Hans von Holst
Prof. David Yates  

Previous ETSC reviews indicate that road crashes:

  • are the second most serious cause of death or admission to hospital for inhabitants of the EU, preceded by cancer and followed by coronary heart diseases;
  • are the main cause of death for EU citizens under 45 years old;
  • lead to higher annual socio-economic costs than for cancer or coronary heart disease.
The ETSC report also appears in the October edition of the European Journal of Emergency Medicine.