Three Times as Many Road Traffic Injuries than Official Data Indicate

Posted on: 27 May 2016

Road traffic injuries are far more numerous than official data indicate and they are very costly for society, according to new findings published today by researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering.
The research shows that Road Safety Authority (RSA) data alone do not measure the extent or nature of the road traffic injury problem, while hospital data identify additional and different injuries with only 30% overlap with RSA data. A key feature of hospital data is the significant numbers of vulnerable users — especially cyclists and motorcyclists — who are not seen in the RSA data.
Comparisons between injury severity measures for those in both datasets show that the number of clinically serious injuries is about twice the RSA-reported number, and that the definition of serious injury is changing over time.
Of the vulnerable traffic users, cyclists are the most striking, with 10 times as many hospitalised with clinically serious injuries compared to the number seriously injured according to RSA data. This underlines how the national policy to encourage cycling needs to pay more attention to safety.
The lack of one comprehensive dataset has previously made it difficult to assess the extent of the problems in Ireland, but the Trinity researchers got around this problem by linking anonymised datasets from three separate sources of injury data; by combining data from hospitals, the RSA and the Injuries Board, they obtained the new estimates of the number of injuries on Irish roads.
Their research appears in the Journal of Safety Research – a copy is available on request. It can also be viewed here:
When the Injuries Board data are added to the RSA and hospital cases, a large number of entirely new injuries emerge. Even if many of these are minor accidents they have a large cost for the individuals involved and for society.
Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at Trinity, Brian Caulfield, said: “These data also need to be taken into account in injury statistics, but we also need more reliable and complete information on the injuries. New injury indicators are clearly needed, since the existing data do not capture the gravity and extent of the problem."
"I hope the RSA and other bodies will now realise the importance of further efforts to better understand the traffic injuries problem.”
The Trinity researchers conclude that injuries need to become a more central part of Ireland’s road safety strategy, and that specific policies to deal with injuries need to be developed for cyclists and motorcyclists, for traffic in urban areas, and also for whiplash injuries.
Dr Jack Short, former Secretary General of the International Transport Forum at OECD, said: “This research shows that the total social costs of road traffic injuries are now greater than the cost of fatalities, so this subject merits increased policy attention and a higher priority in the Irish Road Safety Strategy.”

Media Contact:

Thomas Deane, Media Relations Officer | | +353 1 896 4685