Road Traffic Crashes, Injury and Fatality Trends in Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendances En Matiere D'accidents, De Blessures et De Mortalite De la Route Au Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendencias En Las Colisiones, Las Lesiones Y Las Muertes En Las Vias De Transito En Sri Lanka: 1938-2013

By Dharmaratne, Samath D.; Jayatilleke, Achala Upendra et al. | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Road Traffic Crashes, Injury and Fatality Trends in Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendances En Matiere D'accidents, De Blessures et De Mortalite De la Route Au Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendencias En Las Colisiones, Las Lesiones Y Las Muertes En Las Vias De Transito En Sri Lanka: 1938-2013


Dharmaratne, Samath D., Jayatilleke, Achala Upendra, Jayatilleke, Achini C., Bulletin of the World Health Organization


Introduction

Road traffic injuries are a major but neglected global public health problem. (1) Each year, road traffic crashes are responsible for over 1 million deaths and 20 to 50 million injuries worldwide. (1,2) Low- and middle-income countries are the most affected, because road traffic crashes and injuries are linked not only to the number of vehicles, road conditions and drivers' behaviour but also to the country's level of economic and social development. (1-3) In particular, poor road infrastructure, inappropriate mixing of vehicle types, inadequate traffic law enforcement and delayed implementation of road safety policies can increase road traffic crashes. (3)

Sri Lanka is a lower-middle-income country in south Asia that has a substantial burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities. (4-7) Between 1938 and 1997, the absolute number of road traffic fatalities in the country increased 10-fold to reach 1835 deaths in 1997 in a population of around 18 million. (5,7) Despite the need for immediate action to reduce this growing burden, there is a paucity of coordinated government road safety strategies and road safety research in the country. (7)

Sri Lanka has an interesting traffic history. Between 1815 and 1948, the island was governed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The British expanded the road infrastructure, (8) increased the number of vehicles and developed railways to transport goods. (9) In 1948, Sri Lanka gained its independence and the new government further improved the road infrastructure. However, because railways were neglected, road transport was used for goods, increasing the risk of crashes. Sri Lanka passed its first traffic act in 1934 and, from 1938 onwards, the police documented traffic accidents. (10,11) In 1951, the country mandated that all motor vehicles be registered with the Department of Motor Traffic, (8,12) which meant that vehicles had to be roadworthy. The law specifically prohibited the registration of unlawfully fabricated motor vehicles, which were common at the time. In 1953, Sri Lanka established a separate traffic police division. (10,11) This increased the number of traffic police and improved traffic law enforcement.

In 1977, Sri Lanka introduced an open economic policy that promoted motor vehicle imports. This resulted in a massive influx of motorcycles and three-wheeled taxis, (8) which are prone to crashes because they are unstable and topple easily. Since two- and three-wheeled vehicles are less robust than other vehicles, occupants are more likely to be injured in a crash. (1-3) Finally, despite the large increase in motor vehicles, the road infrastructure did not develop at the same pace.

In Sri Lanka, a lack of road safety research and the limited availability of statistics on road traffic crashes and injuries made it difficult for policy-makers to propose interventions that would prevent road traffic crashes. The aims of this study were to describe the trends in road traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities in Sri Lanka from 1938 to 2013 and to identify factors associated with these trends.

Methods

Our analysis used statistics on road traffic crashes and road traffic injuries from the road traffic crash statistics' database maintained by the traffic police headquarters, which is the only comprehensive such database in Sri Lanka. (9) Permission to access these data was obtained from the police headquarters. By law, all road traffic crashes must be reported to the police within 24 hours. For the database, a road traffic crash was defined as a crash on a public highway or road that involved a vehicle and also involved personal injury or damage to property. (1,8) Crashes were classified as involving one of four types of injury: (i) fatal (i.e. a victim died due to injuries sustained in the crash, irrespective of the time interval between the crash and death); (ii) serious (i. …

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Road Traffic Crashes, Injury and Fatality Trends in Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendances En Matiere D'accidents, De Blessures et De Mortalite De la Route Au Sri Lanka: 1938-2013/tendencias En Las Colisiones, Las Lesiones Y Las Muertes En Las Vias De Transito En Sri Lanka: 1938-2013
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