Road traffic deaths and injuries are under-reported in Ethiopia: a capture-recapture method

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 23;9(7):e103001. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103001. eCollection 2014.


In low and middle income countries road traffic injuries are commonly under-reported. This problem is significantly higher among those less severely injured road users. The objective of this study was to determine the incidence and the level of ascertainment of road traffic injuries and deaths by traffic police and hospital registry. In this study two-sample capture-recapture method was applied using data from traffic police and hospital injury surveillance, through June 2012 to May 2013. The study was conducted on one of the busiest highways in Ethiopia, the Addis Ababa - Hawassa highway. Primary data were collected by accident investigators and hospital emergency nurses using a structured checklist. Four matching variables; name of the victim, sex, place and time of the accidents was used to get the matched cases. During the study period the police independently reported 224 deaths and 446 injuries/billion vehicle kilometer while hospitals reported 123 deaths and 1,046 injuries/billion vehicle kilometer. Both sources in common captured 73 deaths and 248 injuries/billion vehicle kilometer. Taking the two data sources into consideration, the capture-recapture model estimated the incidence of deaths and injuries ranged 368-390 and 1,869-1,895 per billion vehicle kilometer, respectively. The police source captured 57.4%-60.9% of deaths and 23.5%-23.9% of injuries while the hospital sources captured 31.5%-33.4% of deaths and 55.2%-56% of injuries. Deaths and injuries among females, younger age victims, cyclists/motorcyclists and pedestrians were under-reported by traffic police. In conclusion neither of the two sources independently provided accurate coverage of road traffic incident related deaths and injuries. Strengthening both systems is necessary to obtain accurate information on road accidents and human causalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • Hospital Records*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Police*
  • Registries
  • Young Adult