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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Epidemiological Study of Road Traffic Cases: A Study From South India

Author(s): Nilambar Jha, D.K. Srinivasa, Gautam Roy, S. Jagdish

Vol. 29, No. 1 (2004-01 - 2004-03)

p>Deptt. of PSM and Surgery, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research, Pondicherry


Research question: What are the various epidemiological factors related to road traffic accident cases?

Objectives: 1) To assess the prevalence of road traffic cases coming to hospital. 2) To know the various epidemiological factors related to road traffic accident cases.

Study design: Descriptive study.

Setting: Study was performed in Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research Hospital, Pondicherry.

Participants: 726 road traffic victims reported in one year period.

Study variables: Demographic characteristics of the victims, time, day and month of accidents. Type of accidents, vehicle involved in accidents etc.

Statistical analysis: Proportions.

Results: There were 83% male and 17% female accident victims. Labourers were the highest (29.9%) among the victims. The highest number of accidents took place in the month of January (12.9%) and on Sundays (17.1%). The occupants of the various vehicles constituted the large (45%) group of the victims. Among the motorized vehicles, two wheeler drivers were more (31.1%) involved in accidents. Out of 254 drivers 14.9% were found to have consumed alcohol. Being knocked down was the common mode of accidents.

Key Words: Road traffic accident, Accidents, Epidemiological study, Trauma, Injuries


Accidents, tragically, are not often due to ignorance, but are due to carelessness, thoughtlessness and over confidence. William Haddon (Head of Road Safety Agency in USA) has pointed out that road accidents were associated with numerous problems each of which needed to be addressed separately1. Human, vehicle and environmental factors play roles before, during and after a trauma event. Accidents, therefore, can be studied in terms of agent, host and environmental factors and epidemiologically classified into time, place and person distribution.

Material and Methods:

This study was conducted at Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) Hospital, Pondicherry, South India from 1st January to 31st December 1994. The study group-consisted of all the RTA victims reporting to JIPMER casualty in the above one year period.

For the purpose of the study, a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) was defined as accident, which took place on the road between two or more objects, one of which must be any kind of a moving vehicle. Any injury on the road without involvement of a vehicle (e.g. a person slipping and falling on the road and sustaining injury) or injury involving a stationary vehicle (e.g. persons getting injured while washing or loading a vehicle) or deaths due to RTA were excluded from the study. The victims of the accidents were interviewed to obtain the information about the circumstances leading to accident. A pre-tested proforma specially designed for this purpose was used for interviewing the accident victims, either in the casualty or in the wards of JIPMER Hospital. Where the condition of the victims did not warrant the interview, the relatives or attendants were interviewed. The information collected consisted of personal identification data, time, date, day and type of vehicles involved in RTA, protective gear worn and category of road users. The medico-legal records and case sheets were referred for collecting additional information and where necessary for cross-checking.


A total of 544 RTAs involving 752 victims, including 26 fatalities from 24 RTAs, reported at JIPMER Hospital during this study period. Due to certain limitations, it was decided not to include fatal accidents. This present study deals with 520 RTAs involving 726 victims. Out of these 726 victims, 494 victims (68%) involved in 368 RTAs were interviewed.

Table I: Age and sex distribution of victims.

Age (yrs) Male Female Total
No. % No. % No. %
0-9 28 4.6 16 13.0 44 6.0
10-19 78 12.9 5 4.0 83 11.5
20-29 197 32.7 30 24.5 227 31.3
30-39 136 22.6 26 21.1 162 22.3
40-49 93 15.4 20 16.3 113 15.6
50-59 49 8.1 17 13.8 66 9.1
60-69 15 2.5 7 5.7 22 3.0
>70 7 1.2 2 1.6 9 1.2
Total 603 100 123 100 726 100

There were 603 (83%) male and 123 (17%) female victims. The average age of the victims was 31.5 years. The highest number of victims (31.3%) were between 20-29 years of age followed by 30-39 years and 40-49 years age group. About 71% of the victims (516) were under 40 years of age. There were 65 children (8.9%) below 12 years of age with an average age of 7.1 years.

Table II: Educational status of the victims.

Educational Status Victims
No. %
Illiterate 82 16.6
Education up to 5th class 107 21.7
Education up to 5th class 95 19.3
Education up to 5th class 83 16.8
Matriculate 45 9.0
Intermediate 34 6.9
Graduate and Above (<5yrs age) 43 8.7
Not Appilcable 5 1.0
Total 494 100

Among 494 victims who could be interviewed, 107 (21.4%) had education upto 5th class (Table II). Ninety-five (19.3%) were educated upto 8th class while 82 (16.6%) were illiterates. Victims with a higher education (matriculation and above) were fewer in proportion.

Table III: Occupation of the victims.

Occupation Victims
No. %
Labourer 217 29.9
Employee in Seervice 157 21.6
Agriculturist 116 15.9
Student 115 15.8
Housewife 93 12.8
Retired 11 1.5
Unemployed 4 0.6
Not Applicable (<5 yrs age) 13 1.8
Total 726 100

The labourers were he highest (29.9%) in number among the victims. Persons who were employed in service were the next largest group with 157 victims (21.6%). 115 (15.8%) students were involved in accidents.

The highest number of RTAs took place in January (12.9%) followed by August and October (9.0%) each. The maximum number of people involved in accidents were 80 in January (11%), followed by 68 (9.4%) in June. The rainy months in this part of India are October, November and December. During this period, the number of road accidents reported were 118 (22.7%), in which 172 people (23.7%) were injured. The highest number of RTAs (17.1%) took place on Sundays followed by Tuesdays (15.9%) and Thursdays (15.8%). The least number of RTAs occurred on Mondays (12.3%). One hundred and five (20.2%) RTAs took place on holidays. Accidents occurred throughout the day but the peak time for RTAs were different. The highest number of RTAs occurred form 4 PM to 5 PM (46; 8.9%) and from 6 PM to 7 PM (38; 7.3%).

Out of 494 victims who could be interviewed, 121 (24.5%) mentioned that the road was wet at the time of RTA. There were 107 vehicles involved in accident during wet condition of the road. Among them, there were 23.3% buses, 21.5% trucks and 20.7% motorized two wheelers. Among two wheelers, mopeds were the highest in number (10, 9.3%). The pedestrians (22%) and drivers (35%) were the category of road users among the victims. The occupants of vehicles constituted the largest (45%) group of victims.

Table IV: Type of vehicles involved in injuries to Pedestrians.

Type of Vehicle Victims
No. %
Motorized Two Wheelers 39 24.4
Truck 35 21.9
Four Wheelers (car, jeep, van) 34 212.2
Bus 20 12.5
Bicycles 9 5.6
Bullock Cart 9 5.6
three wheelers 7 4.4
Tractor 7 4.4
Total 160 100

24.4% pedeitrians were injured by motorized two wheelers, 21.9% by truck. Four wheelers caused injury to 21.2% and buses to 12.5% pedestrians.

Among the drivers of different types of vehicles, there were 98(38.6%) bicyclists and 43 (16.9%) bullock cart drivers. Motorized two wheeler drivers were victims in 79 (31.1%) cases while bus an d four wheeler drivers were victims in 13 (5.1%) and 9 (3.5%) cases respectively. Among motorized two wheelers, there were 14 (5.5%) scooter drivers.

Of the 245 drivers involved in RTAs, 187 could be interviewed. Of these, 102 were bicyclists and bullock cart drivers who do not require a license. Of the remaining 85 drivers of different motor vehicles, 71 mentioned that they had driving license, one had learner's driving license and 13 (15.3%) had no valid license. All those who had no license were driving motorized two wheelers.

None of the drivers or occupants of any motorized two wheeler vehicle was using any protective gear at the time of the accident.

Out of 254 drivers, 38 (14.9%) were found to have consumed alcohol. These included 19 (50%) bicyclists - 17 (44.7%) motorized two wheeler drivers and 2 (5.3%) bullock cart drivers.

Table V: Different type of vehicle occupants.

Type of Occupation Victims
No. %
Bus 150 48.0
Truck 39 12.6
Four Wheelers (car, jeep van) 31 9.9
Bullock cart 30 9.6
Moped 17 5.5
Bicycles 13 4.1
Mootorcycles 12 3.8
Three Wheelers 9 2.9
Scooter 6 2.0
Tractor 5 1.6
Total 312 100

The occupants of buses (150; 48%) were the highest number of victims involved in RTAs followed by (39; 12.6%) occupants of trucks (Table V). Among the motorized two wheelers, the pillion riders of scooters were least involved. Since an RTA could involve more than one vehicle, the total number of the vehicles were 685. There were 133 bicycles (19.4%), 115 trucks (16.8%) and 102 buses (14.9%) involved in the road accidents. Among motorized two wheelers, there were 63 motorcycles (9.2%), 57 mopeds (8.3%) and 36 scooters (5.3%). Bullock carts were involved in 71 (10.4%) RTAs. Being knocked down was the common mode of RTA, claiming 266 victims (36.6%), followed by falling off vehicles which claimed 147 (20.2%) victims. Other modes were collision between two vehicles (18.8%), run over (5.9%) and due to over turning (7.0%). Interestingly 83 (11.4%) victims were injured due to the vehicle hitting a stationary object.


In the present study, the highest number of RTA victims (31%) were found between the age group of 20 and 29 years. The similar findings were also reported from Delhi and Nepal also2,3. However, in few studies 16 to 30 years and 15-35 years age groups were more involved in RTA4,5. Another study from Delhi, reported that people of the 3rd decade of age were most commonly involved in RTAs6. The present study also found that more than 69% of the victims were in the age group between 20-49 years. This shows that the people of the most active and productive age group are involved in RTAs, which adds a serious economic loss to the community. Similar observations were also made by others7,8.

The present study showed that below and above the age of 20 and 49 years, there were less accidents. The reasons may be that children are taken care of by elders and less use of vehicles in the adolescent age group. Lower proportion of RTAs in those aged 60 and above could be due to the generally less mobility of the people.

The accident rates were 4.9 times higher in males than in females according to this study. Similar results were also observed in Delhi2. However, in another study, male and female ratio was very high (9:1)6. It has been reported that 80% the victims involved in RTAs were males4,9. Males are much more exposed to RTAs than females.

It was observed that more people with lower levels of education were involved in RTAs. Similar result were also observed by others2,10. However, this relationship between education and RTA may not be causal.

In this study, the labourers constituted the largest group (29.9%) involved in RTAs, followed by employees in service, agriculturists and students in descending order. It has been reported that more accidents were seen among low socioeconomic group of people10. However, in another study, the students were the highest followed by labourers2.

The reason may be that the labourers travel in trucks carrying bricks, sand and other heavy materials. It is interesting to note that among the type of motorized vehicles trucks were involved in the highest number of accidents, and labourers often travelled in the truck as part of their work.

In the present study, the highest number of accidents were observed in January and the maximum number of victims were also highest compared to other months. The similar observations were made by others2,6. There was some increases in RTAs in the month of October, which may be attributed to the rainy season and, therefore, wet conditions of the road. Out of 494 victims who could be interviewed, 121(24.5%) mentioned that the roads were wet at the same of the RTA. No explanation can be offered for the increase in RTA in January and August. There is no fog or mist in January in this area or heavy rainfall in August. Infact there is little change in the seasons here.

In the present study the highest number of accidents were on Sundays and lowest on Mondays. This pattern differs from studies in Delhi and California2,11 where they found the highest occurrence of RTAs were on Saturdays. In another study from Delhi, the highest number of RTAs were observed on Mondays and Wednesdays6.

The reason may be that people leave homes for various purposes on Sundays, it being a holiday.

In the present study, the peak time for accidents was between 4 to 5 PM (8.9%). Between 6 and 7 PM also a high number of RTA were observed (7.4%). Two peak times for accidents were also reported in Delhi2. These were in between 9 and 10 AM and between 4 and 5 PM. These hours are the busiest as commuters go to and return from the schools, offices, factories and business place.

More than 60% of accidents took place in the day time (6 AM to 6 PM). Similar results were also observed in Delhi12. These times coincide with the period when people are more active and mobile.

In this study, pedestrians constituted 22% of the road users involved in RTA, followed by bicyclists (15.3%) two wheeler drivers (10.9%). Similar results were also observed at other places2,4-7,9. However, in Delhi, it was observed that animal driven vehicle users were only 3.4% compared to 6% in the present study2. This could be explained by the fact that the present study is from a semi urban area and bullock carts ply frequently on the roads, other study was from the cosmopolitan city of Delhi.

Among the motorized two wheelers, moped drivers were more commonly involved in RTA's. This could be due to the higher speed, which can be achieved over short distances and less stability of the vehicle. One of the most common mode of transportation used by people is the bus and this is reflected by the fact that bus occupants constituted the highest number (48%) of RTA victims.

This study found 15.3% drivers of different vehicles were without driving license, which is higher compared to 7.4% found in Delhi2. The reason may be the easy accessibility of the vehicles and the casual attitude of drivers towards obtaining licenses. When they were interviewed they mentioned that they would be applying for obtaining the license in future.

No protective gear was used by any of the victims in this study, because there is no such law in Pondicherry or in the adjacent State of Tamil Nadu regarding helmet use. In the present study, 15% of the drivers involved in RTA had consumed alcohol. This was a higher proportion compared to 4.6% and 8% as reported from Delhi6,13.

The role of alcohol in impairing driving ability is well documented. Also the impairment increases as the blood alcohol level rises. In addition, the risk of accidents is higher in youngsters and elderly people for the same blood alcohol levels14.

Bicycles were the highest (19.4%) among the vehicles involved in RTAs, followed by trucks (16.8%) and buses (14.9%) among motorized vehicles. The observation made by others in Delhi were also similar2,6. Whereas, in Aligarh, it was found that two wheelers and bicycles where commonly involved5.

Bicycle riders appear to be at greater risk of sustaining injury in a RTA. Among the motorized vehicles, trucks were the highest number (115) of vehicles involved in RTAs. Rough driving, over speeding and heavily loaded vehicles offering poor control are the possible reasons.

The common mode of sustaining injury was by being knocked down by a vehicle. As many as 37% of victims were injured by this mode. Similar results were also observed in Delhi6. Falling from a moving vehicle and collision between two vehicles were responsible for 20% and 19% respectively. These were other modes of RTAs causing injuries

Conclusions and Recommendations:

There is clearly a need for road safety education and it should be directed towards road users, who are frequently involved and injured in RTAs (e.g. students). An integrated programme of road safety education is suggested.

  1. Pre-school children may be introduced to the elementary concepts of road safety through stories involving the animal world.
  2. Primary school children may be given practice guidance on the use of side walks and road crossing techniques.
  3. For middle school students - road signs and bicycle riding.
  4. High school students can be taught about reaction time, braking distance, defensive driving and hazards of alcoholic drinks. Road side random breath testing for alcohol should be done by using breath analyzers, which can be confirmed by blood concentration level of alcohol.

The real pressure and motivation to improve driving skills can come only through licensing authorities by adopting stricter, more comprehensive and scientifically based test laying a stress on road rules, regulations and traffic control devices.

At the time of giving license to the public transport drivers (Bus and Trucks), they can be given training in first-aid skills so that victims are attended immediately in the post accident period.


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