Background Reliable data on traffic deaths are important for planning road safety programmes and evaluating progress. Although pedestrians comprise approximately 40% of traffic deaths in low-income and middle-income countries, official government statistics in India suggest that pedestrians comprise less than 10% of deaths.
Objective To assess the accuracy of official tabulations of traffic deaths among various road users in India.
Method We reviewed police first information reports (FIRs) of traffic deaths in one district (Belgaum) in 2013 and 2014 and extracted information about crash victims. We validated the FIRs by linking with case files from four police stations in the district. Finally, we compared the information on types of road users killed based on FIRs with the district's official tabulations.
Results We found that the distribution of deaths by types of road users reported in official tabulations differed substantially from the underlying police reports. While official tabulations reported that only 9% of deaths in 2013 were pedestrians and 37% were riders of motorised two wheelers, FIRs showed that these groups accounted for 21% and 49% of deaths, respectively.
Discussion Official tabulations of traffic deaths in India do not correctly represent the types of roads users killed. Until the Indian National Crime Records Bureau has corrected the process of generating statistical tabulations from police reports, data on the types of road users killed in India should not be used for research and policy. In the interim, researchers and policy makers who need such information should extract it from police case files.
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