Update from South East Asia - Epidemiology of crashes in India

Update from South East Asia - Epidemiology of crashes in India

Epidemiology is the science that studies the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. Our CORE Group Representative for South East Asia, Dr Naren Nallapeta shared a key study by the TATA Trust focusing on the causes of road crashes in his home country of India. It shows rapid motorization in one of the most populated coutries in the world.

tata trust

India accounts for as high as 6 per cent of the world’s RTCs, although it has 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles. The RTC rate of 35 per 1,000 vehicles in India is one of the highest in the world and so is the RTA fatality rate of 25.3 per 10,000 vehicles.


  • India has a total rural road network of over 3,000,000km and urban road network of more than 250,000km with:
           - National highways / expressways being 70,548km
           - State highways being 128,000k
           - Major and other district roads 470,000k
           - Village roads 2,650,000km.
  • Data indicates that the total motor vehicle population in India has increased from 300,000 in 1951 to about 73,000,000 in 2004.
  • The percentage share of road traffic accidental deaths in India is 34.5 per cent according to a recent NCRB (2009) report
  • 100,300 males and 17,939 females totalling 118,239 persons were killed during the year 2008, while travelling by various modes of transport on roads.

india road
Rapid motorization without a real focus on safety has left India with of the highest death rates due to road traffic crashes in the world.

Recent years have been witnessing an increasing amount of traffic on the roads leading to increased risks for road traffic accidents to occur. Evidence from developed and especially developing countries indicates that road traffic accidents are on the rise and are found to be fifth among important causes of deaths globally, leading to a significant proportion of injuries, deaths and disabilities in the population.

India has the highest proportion of deaths due to road traffic accidents in South East Asia. The situation is problematic in India because of lack of proper infrastructure facilities, poor road designs, poor implementation of traffic rules and regulations and a high load of a range of vehicles on the roads.

Fatalities and morbidities from RTAs mostly affect the economically productive age group. Studies indicate that young adults in their early thirties continue to be the victims of RTAs.m Pedestrians, users of non-motorised vehicles and users of motorised two-wheeled vehicles, who are often from poor or lower middle class households, are the victims of fatal RTAs.

Gaps in knowledge

In spite of the high burden of RTAs in the country, there is a lack of systematic information on the extent of the problem and its multi-dimensional nature. There is limited information on the patterns, distribution, and outcomes of RTAs across the country.

Lack of systematic data generation mechanisms both at the national and state level leads to limitations in designing appropriate intervention strategies to deal with the problem in the country.In addition to this, research efforts to understand the social and economic consequences of deaths, injuries and long-term disabilities and their implications for the different sections of the population are limited.

india safety 1
A common site in India; lack of helmet use and incredibly unsafe mobility.

The way forward

The way forward could include:

  • A multi-pronged approach, and efforts at systematic data generation to understand the true extent of the problem.
  • Awareness and educational programmes directed at both the vehicle users as well as road users.
  • Strict law enforcement mechanisms to control and regulate traffic on the road.
  • Improvement in trauma management systems to reduce the intensity of injuries suffered by the victims.
  • 100,300 males and 17,939 females totalling 118,239 persons were killed during the year 2008, while travelling by various modes of transport on roads.
  • Encouraging use of safety aids such as helmets among the public and improving infrastructure to make roads safer.
  • Encouraging research on improvement in the existing technologies such as helmets by adapting them to local circumstances; promote better vehicular designs that are more stable and crash-resistant.
  • Creation of a common platform at the national level to pool research inputs for better understanding of RTAs and encourage evidence based policy formulation to attend to this problem in our country.


wear your helmet poem
Click here to read Naren's poem on helmet use.

This update was provided by Dr Naren Nallapeta - Coordinator of the South East Asia Region




Read Dr Naren Nallapeta's poem on helmets
Read Tata Trust's Report on RTCs in India


Meet Naren Nallapeta - Coorindator of South East Asia
More about the Sir Ratan Tata Trust