Does the Global Burden of Disease study substantially overestimate road traffic deaths in OECD countries?

Another area of big difference between the IHME Global Burden of Disease Study and WHO global statistics relates to road injury deaths in developed countries. Dan Hogan and I have just published a comment comparing our statistics with the GBD 2010 study and with the International Road Traffic Accident Database (IRTAD) for 25 OECD countries: Mathers and Hogan 2015

This commentary accompanies a paper by leading injury experts Kavi Bhalla and James Harrison which examines why the GBD 2010 estimates for road injury deaths for these countries are 45% higher than the IRTAD numbers. The 45% higher estimate from the GBD-2010 is surprising, since these OECD countries are information-rich countries with multiple data systems and generally relatively good recording of causes of death.

Picture1Our last WHO estimates (WHO 2013 Road Safety Report) were 8% higher than IRTAD for 2010, which is plausible given differences in definition (IRTAD only includes deaths within one month of the accident) and that we assume some injury deaths coded only as “undetermined intent” are road injury deaths.

Bhalla and Harrison make a good case that the IHME overestimates is related to their assumption that a significant proportion of deaths coded to “unspecified accident” are road injury deaths, whereas in fact road injury deaths are very unlikely to end up in this category.

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