Evaluating the Effectiveness of Implementing a More Severe Drunk-Driving Law in China: Findings from Two Open Access Data Sources
Alcohol-related driving is a serious public health problem worldwide. In 2004, drunk driving caused an estimated 268 000 deaths, accounting for 21% of global deaths from road traffic crashes. In China, drunk driving has emerged as a growing threat since the mid-1990s. According to national statistics based on police data, road traffic mortality from drunk driving more than doubled between 1996 and 2004. In response, in 2004 the government of China began to adopt unprecedented, stringent penalties for drivers convicted of drunk driving. Beginning in 2007, even stricter penalties were introduced, and the government reported a 44% decrease in drunk driving between 2007 and 2010. Based on police datadthe only source of specific information on deaths from drunk drivingdit would appear that the death rate from drunk driving in China decreased continuously at a remarkable rate after 2004. However, such a decline is unbelievable because health data indicated that road traffic deaths were seriously underreported by the police; during 2002e2007 the number of deaths reported by health departments was more than double the number reported by police. Because health data do not specify alcohol-related traffic deaths, we cannot determine how much of the reduction in police-reported deaths between 2004 and 2010 can be attributed to under-reporting. Using health data, we found that the total number of traffic deaths reported by police accounted for 53% of traffic deaths in health data in 2006 but only 27% in 2010. This indicates that the recent policereported reduction in traffic deaths from drunk driving may be partially due to changes in under-reporting. In the U.N.’s global plan for the decade of action for road safety 2011e2020, the prevention of crashes and injuries from alcohol-related driving has been listed as a priority, and the collection of highquality data is recognised as necessary for success. To accurately monitor progress in drunk driving prevention as well as other activities of the global plan, China needs to take action immediately to improve the quality of data. This also applies to many other countries that use police data only to estimate road traffic mortality and morbidity because serious under-reporting of police data does not exist merely in China but also occurs in other countries, even some developed countries. According to the Global Status Report on Road Safety: Time for Action that was released in 2009, 91 of 178 countries participating in the survey used police data solely to measure the injuries from road traffic crashes, including 29 low-income countries, 43 middleincome countries and 19 high-income countries. Clearly, we cannot correctly assess the effects of prevention measures of the global plan when the global plan ends without high-quality data. It is imperative for all countries that participate in the global action plan to assess the quality of road traffic injury data and develop methods to collect high-quality data.