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Data: While the total number of accidental deaths in 2021 is lower than in 2019, deaths due to road accidents are higher

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As per NCRB’s ADSI-2021 report, the total number of accidental deaths in the country was 3.97 lakh in 2021, lower than the 4.21 lakh reported in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. However, the number of deaths due to road accidents in 2021 was 1.56 lakh compared to 1.55 lakh in 2019 and 1.33 lakh in 2020. 

Accidents, by their very definition and nature, are unplanned events that result in harm. Several reasons ranging from human negligence to natural disasters which are beyond human means can result in accidents. Despite the unexpected nature of the accidents, efforts can be made to mitigate the occurrence or impact of an accident. Data related to the accidents can offer insights that could inform the necessary preventive steps to reduce the occurrence of these accidents. 

The annual Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) reports published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) provide data on the recorded incidence of accidents in the country. Recently, the NCRB released the 55th edition of this report – ADSI 2021

In the previous year i.e., 2020, there was a fall in the number of accidents. This was largely attributed to COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown measures, which restricted the movement of people. Despite a more severe second wave in 2021, the lockdown measures in 2021 were less stringent than in the earlier year. We look at the new trends in ‘Accidents in India’, based on the ADSI-2021 report. 

Accidental Deaths increased in 2021, but still lower than pre-pandemic period

The information published in ADSI-2021 is a compilation of the information received from the States/UT Police. Hence the information is based only on the cases that are recorded by the police. 

As per the 2021 report, there were 3.97 lakh accidental deaths in 2021, which is higher than 3.74 lakh deaths in 2020. As highlighted, there was a fall in the number of deaths in 2020 on account of COVID-19-related restrictions.  Even though the number of accidental deaths has increased in 2021, it is lower than the 4.21 lakh deaths in 2019. It ought to be noted there was a two-year increasing trend in the number of accidents before 2020. 

If the data since 2011 is considered, the trend has been inconsistent with an increase followed by a decrease in the number of accidents in the subsequent year. Apart from the number of accidental deaths, the rate of accidental deaths provides better insights into the trends as it takes population into account. 

The accidental Death rate is the number of accidental deaths per one lakh population. NCRB has projected the population for the year based on the 2011 census. In 2021, the Accidental death rate was 29.1 per Lakh population. In line with the increase in the number of accidental deaths, the rate has increased in 2021 compared to 2020 when it was 27.7 per lakh population. Despite the increase, the rate is lower than 30. Between 2011 & 2021, the rate of accidents was less than 30 only in 2020 & 2021. 

Maharashtra & MP among the states with high number & Rate of Accidental Deaths 

In 2021, Maharashtra reported the highest number of accidental deaths with 58.2 thousand, followed by Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu & Karnataka in that order complete the top 5 states with the highest recorded Accidental deaths in 2021. These states are also among the largest in terms of size and population.

The rate of Accidental Deaths is a better parameter to compare as it normalises the number of deaths with the state’s population. This is particularly true in the case of UP, the country’s most populous state. Despite reporting the third highest number of accidental deaths in 2021, the rate is 15.8, which is among the lowest in the country. The same cannot be said about Maharashtra. Apart from being the state with the highest number of accidental deaths, the rate is also higher in Maharashtra with 46.7 deaths per lakh population. 

Chhattisgarh has the highest rate of accidental deaths with 59.2. Despite a high rate, there is an improvement compared to 2020 when the rate was 68.6 deaths per 1 lakh population.  The other large states with a higher rate of accidental deaths include M.P, Odisha, Haryana & Kerala. 

In terms of the number of accidental deaths, few of the more populous like Bihar & West Bengal reported comparatively fewer cases. 

The trend in 2021 is similar to the trend in 2020, where Maharashtra and M.P have reported a high number of cases among the ones with a higher rate of accidental deaths. 

Increase in the share of Traffic Accident-related Deaths 

A major share of accidental deaths is usually due to Traffic Accidents. In 2021, there were 1.73 lakh deaths that were caused due to Traffic Accidents. This accounts for around 44% of the total accidental deaths for the year. In 2020, deaths due to Traffic Accidents accounted for around 39% of the total accidental deaths. 

While the number of deaths due to other causes like ‘Sudden Death’, ‘Poisoning’ & ‘Falls’ has increased in 2021, their share in the total accidental deaths is lower than in 2020.  Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to ‘Drowning’ has reduced in 2021 compared to 2020. 

There were 975 deaths of women during pregnancy in 2021, compared to 1.1 thousand in 2020. 1.6 thousand lives were lost due to the collapse of the structure, while 1.2 thousand were killed by Animals. 

A significant change was in the case of deaths caused due to suffocation. In 2021, there were 1.2 thousand deaths due to Suffocation, which was more than 2 thousand in 2020. Meanwhile, deaths due to ‘Drug Overdose’ increased from 514 in 2020 to 737 in 2021.

The number of deaths whose causes are not known was 14.7 thousand in 2021, compared to more than 15 thousand deaths in 2020. Similarly, 40.4 thousand deaths were categorised as ‘Causes other than above’, which was 43.8 thousand in 2020. 

The number of accidental deaths due to ‘Forces of Nature’ was lower in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2021, there were 7,126 such reported deaths, compared to 7405 in 2020.  Among them, the highest are the deaths due to Lightning. In 2021, there were 2880 such deaths. Further, 656 deaths were due to floods and 618 due to ‘Exposure to Cold’. Around 2 thousand deaths were caused due to natural causes, and are not categorised under any specific cause. 

17% increase in the number of persons who died in Road Accidents 

Among the 1.73 lakh traffic accident deaths recorded in 2021, 1.55 lakhs were due to road accidents. A total of 16.4 thousand people died in railway accidents while 1.8 thousand died in Roadways Crossing Accidents. 

While the number of Railways Accident deaths was higher in 2021 compared to 2020, they are significantly lower than during the pre-pandemic period. Cancellation of Railways services during the pandemic and only a gradual opening of the services subsequently could be the reason for these numbers. 

But the same cannot be said for Road Accidents. There is not only an increase in the number of deaths due to Road Accidents in 2021 compared to 2020, but the number is also higher than in the pre-pandemic years. At the same time, the number of road accidents was lower than in the pre-pandemic period. 

Highest Number of Deaths due to Road Accidents in Uttar Pradesh & Tamil Nadu 

14% of all road accident deaths in 2021 were in Uttar Pradesh. In 2021, there were 33.7 thousand cases of road accidents in Uttar Pradesh resulting in 19.8 thousand injured persons and 21.7 thousand deaths.  Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have a comparatively higher number of road accident cases with 55.6 thousand and 48.2 thousand cases. But the fatalities are lower than in U.P with 15.3 thousand and 12.4 thousand respectively. In comparison, the fatality to accident ratio is higher in Maharashtra. A total of 13.9 thousand people were killed in Maharashtra in 25.6 thousand road accidents in 2021. 

The ADSI-2021 data points to an increase in the number of accident-related deaths compared to 2020. This is expected due to the lower number reported in 2020 on account of the pandemic. However, the increase in road accident deaths even compared to the pre-pandemic period is a cause for concern. 

Featured Image: Number of accidental deaths in India 

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