Identification methods of key contributing factors in crashes with high numbers of fatalities and injuries in China

<p><b>Objectives</b>: In China, serious road traffic crashes (SRTCs) are those in which there are 10–30 fatalities, 50–100 serious injuries, or a total cost of 50–100 million RMB (U.S.$8–16 M), and particularly serious road traffic crashes (PSRTCs) are those that are more severe or costly. Due to the large number of fatalities and injuries as well as the negative public reaction they elicit, SRTCs and PSRTCs have become of great concern to China during recent years. The aim of this study is to identify the main factors contributing to these road traffic crashes and to propose preventive measures to reduce their number.</p> <p><b>Methods</b>: 49 contributing factors of the SRTCs and PSRTCs that occurred from 2007 to 2013 were collected from the database “In-depth investigation and analysis system for major road traffic crashes” (IIASMRTC) and were analyzed through the integrated use of principal component analysis and hierarchical clustering to determine the primary and secondary groups of contributing factors.</p> <p><b>Results</b>: Speeding and overloading of passengers were the primary contributing factors, featuring in up to 66.3 and 32.6% of accidents, respectively. Two secondary contributing factors were road related: lack of or nonstandard roadside safety infrastructure and slippery roads due to rain, snow, or ice.</p> <p><b>Conclusions</b>: The current approach to SRTCs and PSRTCs is focused on the attribution of responsibility and the enforcement of regulations considered relevant to particular SRTCs and PSRTCs. It would be more effective to investigate contributing factors and characteristics of SRTCs and PSRTCs as a whole to provide adequate information for safety interventions in regions where SRTCs and PSRTCs are more common. In addition to mandating a driver training program and publicization of the hazards associated with traffic violations, implementation of speed cameras, speed signs, markings, and vehicle-mounted Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are suggested to reduce speeding of passenger vehicles, while increasing regular checks by traffic police and passenger station staff and improving transportation management to increase income of contractors and drivers are feasible measures to prevent overloading of people. Other promising measures include regular inspection of roadside safety infrastructure and improving skid resistance on dangerous road sections in mountainous areas.</p>