The purpose of this study was to examine the 1-year incidence of disabilities resulting from traffic injuries among the population of Barcelona (Spain), as well as its distribution by age, gender and type of motor-vehicle user, taking into account different exposure criteria. This is a population-based cross-sectional study; subjects were all cases (n = 4080) having undergone a medical examination for a traffic injury having occurred in 1993 resulting in a disability among residents in the area of Barcelona. Subjects were considered to have suffered a disability as a result of an injury if they were prevented from carrying out their normal activities for a period of 2 days or more. In 1993, the cumulative incidence rate of disability was 237.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, higher for men (287.1) than for women (193.9). The 20-24 year age group showed the highest incidence of disability (607.5). The rate of incidence of disability was 95.5 per 100,000 inhabitants among occupants of two wheeled vehicles, 87.7 among car occupants and 39.9 in pedestrians. When length of exposure to traffic was taken into account, the incidence rate of disability for residents aged > 14 years was 1.09 per 100,000 hours per person per year, similar for both sexes. This study represents a first attempt to use population-based health data to evaluate the incidence of disabilities due to traffic injuries. The results allow the identification of the groups with the greatest risk and who contribute the most to disabilities resulting from injuries, especially young users of two-wheeled motor vehicles.