China's police hugely underestimate road deaths: research

4th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Chinese and US health researchers have challenged commonly used police road accident statistics in China, after finding that the number of deaths was less than half those recorded by doctors.

In research published in the World Health Organisation's monthly Bulletin on Tuesday, they also said that "unlike police-reported data, death registration data fail to show any recent decline" in road accident death rates in China.

"These inconsistencies strongly suggest that the decreasing trend in road traffic mortality shown by police-reported data may not be genuine," they wrote.

The researchers from China's Central South University and the John Hopkins School of Public Health in the United States said the death rate documented in a WHO global report, based on police data, began to fall after 2002, following an official road safety drive in China.

However, while 81,649 people were killed in 2007 according to the police, 221,135 died in road accidents based on death registrations compiled by China's Health Ministry.

"For 2002-2007, the rate of death from road traffic injuries based on death registration data was about twice as high as the rate reported by the police," the researchers added.

A graph comparing the two data sets showed that while the police supplied road accident death rate continued to decline after 2005, it grew sharply according to health statistics.

Almost 70,000 people died in road accidents in 2009 in China, or around 190 fatalities a day, according to police statistics. Even under existing data supplied to the WHO, China accounts for 13.5 percent of the global toll.

© 2011 AFP

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