Estimates of road traffic deaths in Tanzania

Leah Watetu Mbugua, Sudeshna Mitra, Kazuyuki Neki, Hialy Gutierrez, Ramshankar Balasubramaniyan, Mercer Winer, Jaeda Roberts, Theo Vos, Erin Hamilton, Mohsen Naghavi, James E. Harrison, Soames Job, Kavi Bhalla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: There is considerable uncertainty in estimates of traffic deaths in many sub-Saharan African countries, with the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) and the Global Status Report on Road Safety (GSRRS) reporting widely differing estimates. As a case study, we reviewed and compared estimates for Tanzania. Methods: We estimated the incidence of traffic deaths and vehicle ownership in Tanzania from nationally representative surveys. We compared findings with GBD and GSRRS estimates. Results: Traffic death estimates based on the 2012 census (9382 deaths; 95% CI: 7565 to 11 199) and the 2011-2014 Sample Vital Registration with Verbal Autopsy (8778; 95% CI: 7631 to 9925) were consistent with each other and were about halfway between GBD (5 608; 95% UI: 4506 to 7014) and WHO (16 252; 95% CI: 13 130 to 19 374) estimates and more than twice official statistics (3885 deaths in 2013). Surveys and vehicle registrations data show that motorcycles have increased rapidly since 2007 and now comprise 66% of vehicles. However, these trends are not reflected in GBD estimates of motorcycles in the country, likely resulting in an underestimation of motorcyclist deaths. Conclusion: Reducing discrepancies between GBD and GSRRS estimates and demonstrating consistency with local epidemiological data will increase the legitimacy of such estimates among national stakeholders. GBD, which is the only project that models the road-user distribution of traffic deaths in all countries, likely severely underestimates motorcycle deaths in countries where there has been a recent increase in motorcycles. Addressing police under-reporting and strengthening surveillance capacity in Tanzania will allow a better understanding of the road safety problem and better targeting of interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalInjury Prevention
Early online date22 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Apr 2022


  • Motor vehicle - Non traffic
  • Motor vehicle - Occupant
  • Motorcycle


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