Speed blamed for rural road deaths: Institute of British Geographers conference in Nottingham

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FASTER driving speeds, not longer ambulance journeys, are the reason why more road accident victims die in rural areas than in urban ones, the conference was told.

Andrew Jones, a researcher at the University of East Anglia's school of environmental sciences, said the region had an accident rate below the national average but a death rate above it.

It had been assumed that the longer time taken to reach hospital in a largely rural region was to blame.

But having analysed 5,500 serious and fatal accidents in Norfolk between 1987 and 1991, Mr Jones pinned the blame on faster traffic speeds on country roads which made injuries to drivers and pedestrians more likely to be fatal.

'Ambulances do generally take longer in the remote areas but I found no connection with the higher death rate. The onus is on drivers to be more careful.'

The conference also heard from Cambridge University health researchers who questioned 400 people on how they would cope with a serious road accident.

They found most would know how to call emergency services, check that the airway of an unconscious casualty was clear and apply pressure to a severely bleeding wound.

However, most would fail to ensure the accident scene was safe (ensure no smoking, warn traffic), take care not to move people with severe neck injuries and perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation effectively.