Official government statistics on traffic deaths in southwest India significantly misrepresented the number of pedestrian and motorcycle deaths in the region over a two-year period, casting doubt on the reliability of that country’s government data on traffic fatalities, a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.
Researchers compared police reports in Belgaum, Karnataka, a district in southwest India with a population of 4.7 million, with statistics released by India’s National Crime Records Bureau in 2013 and 2014. The researchers found that the official statistics reported pedestrian deaths in the district as 9 percent of total traffic deaths versus 21 percent based on their review of the district’s police reports. For motorcycle deaths, the national data reported that they made up 37 percent of traffic deaths while the researchers found the number was 49 percent.
The findings were published online July 28 in the journal Injury Prevention.
“Our study suggests that taken together pedestrians and motorcyclists account for the vast majority of traffic deaths in India,” says Dr. Kavi Bhalla an assistant professor in the department of international health at the Bloomberg School and the study’s lead author. “The official national statistics for 2014 put the proportion at less than a third. The Indian government claims that they intend to cut traffic deaths by half, but this is impossible to achieve without knowing how people die on the roads.”
Dr. Bhalla says the findings suggest that the Indian government could be misallocating its resources since it doesn’t have a full picture of what is happening on the roads.