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2.2 lakh road injury deaths in India in 2017, leading cause of premature deaths among youth


New Delhi: With 2.2 lakh road injury deaths in India in 2017, it was the leading cause of premature deaths among young males in the country and the second leading cause for males and females combined, according to a study published on Monday in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists accounted for over half of all road injury deaths in the country, higher than the global average, according to 'The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative' which released the first comprehensive population estimates of road injury deaths by type of road users in each state.

The road injury death rate for various types of road users, including pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, varied 4-8 fold between the country's states, highlighting the need for specific road safety planning in each state.

There has been a modest reduction in the road injury death rate in India since 1990, but a much higher death rate reduction is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target, the study highlighted.

The findings, published in one of the leading health research journals in the world, present road injury deaths for different road users and by age and sex across India's states.

The research paper findings show that road injury was the leading cause of death in India among 15-39 year old males in 2017 and was the second leading cause for both sexes combined. 

If the estimated trends of road injury deaths up to 2017 were to continue, no state in India is likely to meet the SDG 2020 target of reducing road injury deaths by half between 2015 to 2020 or even by 2030.

Professor Balram Bhargav, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the number of deaths due to road injury in the country is quite high and the research paper focuses on providing reliable and comprehensive data in the Indian context to inform and monitor progress to reduce the burden of road injury deaths.

Comprehensive findings on road injuries from this study will not only facilitate effective road safety management but would also aid in building effective road injury prevention policies, evidence-based interventions and increase surveillance of road injuries at the state-level after diagnosing and analysing the causes of injuries, he said.

"Efforts must be taken at all levels to reduce the burden from road injury deaths that our country is facing," Bhargava said.

Detailing the findings, the lead author of the study Professor Rakhi Dandona, Professor at the Public Health Foundation of India, said rapid urbanisation and economic growth in India has led to substantial increases in vehicle density and traffic mix but the infrastructure and levels of traffic law enforcement are struggling to keep pace with it, resulting in increased number of road injury deaths.

"Road injury needs multi-sectorial action across three levels to prevent crashes from occurring, to prevent injury if a crash occurs, and then to prevent death or disability among those injured.

"For this to happen, we need to move from the fatalistic attitude conveyed by 'accident' to prevent the needless loss of lives. Road safety for pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists needs to be prioritised to ensure that the youth of our country do not face untimely death," Dandona said.

The findings reported in the paper published on Monday are part of the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2017.

The analytical methods of this study enable standardized comparisons of the health loss caused by different diseases and risk factors, between different geographies, sexes and age groups, and over time in a unified framework.

A key metric used for this comparison is disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which are the sum of the number of years of life lost due to premature death and a weighted measure of the years lived with disability due to a disease or injury.

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