Background Police records are the major source of data on road traffic collision (RTC) deaths in India.
Objective To examine the utility and quality of police data on RTC deaths available from two sources.
Methods Police data on RTC deaths available from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) were accessed. The utility of these data for surveillance and consistency of data reported by the two organisations was examined. Data completeness was assessed for India, its six geographic regions and for the mode of travel using cause of death estimates from the Sample Registration System (SRS) and Global Burden of Disease (GBD) as a reference.
Results Data imperative for surveillance including deaths by age and sex for each state, the counterpart vehicle or object and use of safety equipment were not available. The total number of deaths reported by NCRB and MoRTH was similar across states but showed large differences by mode of travel categories. Compared with GBD, completeness of the number of fatalities reported by both sources in 2010 was approximately 50%. Completeness for the geographic regions ranged from 26.4% to 76.4%, using SRS data, in 2001–2003.
Conclusions This detailed examination of police data on RTC fatalities from two sources has raised several questions about the validity of these data and has highlighted a number of gaps that limit the usefulness of these data for surveillance and informing road safety policies. Unless these are addressed, significant reductions in RTC fatalities cannot be achieved in India.