Epidemiology and Patterns of Transport-Related Fatalities in Austria 1980–2012

Objectives: Transport-related accidents remain the largest single cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 in the European Union, and despite the decrease in number of fatalities from 1990 onwards they remain a significant public health problem. The aim of this article was to analyze the long-term trends and patterns of transport-related fatalities, identify the anatomic distribution of most significant injuries in different road users, and identify the primary populations at risk of transport-related death in Austria between 1980 and 2013.

Methods: Data on transport-related fatalities based on death certificates were obtained from Statistics Austria for the analyzed period. Crude and age-standardized mortality rates per 100,000 were calculated and broken down by age, gender, and month of death, and the anatomic distribution of most significant injuries were identified. Potential years of life lost before age 75 (PYLL-75) were used as a measure of public health impact.

Results: A total of 39,709 transport-related fatalities were identified for the studied years; 74% were males and the mean age was 42.1 years (range 0–103). A decrease in the number of fatalities (from 2018 in 1980 to 554 in 2012), mortality rates (from 26 in 1980 to 7 in 2012), and PYLL-75 (from 68,960 in 1980 to 14,931 in 2012) was observed. Introduction of major prevention milestones (compulsory use of seat belts or child restraints) may have contributed to this decrease. Men 16–24 years old were at the highest risk of transport-related death. Pedestrian victims were more likely to be women and car drivers and motorcyclists were more often men. Most fatal transport accidents occurred between the months of May and October and prevailingly in towns of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. Injuries to the head were the most significant injuries in all user groups (>50% of cases in all road user types). Reduced mortality rates could translate into higher prevalence of long-term disabilities in survivors of transport accidents.

Conclusions: Despite the decreasing trend observed, transport-related fatalities remain a serious public health issue in Austria. An increase in the mortality of motor vehicle drivers warrants more preventive action in this group. Further research is needed on other outcomes of transport accidents such as long-term disabilities to elucidate the true public health burden of transport accidents.