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Australia exceeds US and New Zealand in deaths from driving for work

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Comparing fatal work related road traffic accidents from different sides of the world has disclosed similarities, though better data are needed before preventive strategies can be drawn up.

Occupations in the transport industry topped the bill in the United States (US), Australia, and New Zealand, with truck drivers coming off worst, accounting for 37–49% of these deaths. The types of incidents were similar. Over 90% of deaths were in men, who had crude death rates 9–10 times those of women; workers aged ⩾65 had high rates, particularly in Australia, but drivers in Australia in the 20–34 age range had even higher rates than those aged⩾65 in New Zealand and the US. Overall, percentage and crude death rates were significantly higher in Australia than the US and New Zealand (1.69 v 0.92 and 0.99/100 000 person years, respectively)—so much so that some bias is suspected, probably underreporting in the US and New Zealand. Nevertheless, these deaths are a substantial fraction of all work related deaths and warrant further studies with improved data systems, recent data, and better range of variables.

Data for Australia and New Zealand came from relevant studies using coroners’ data and for the US from a national surveillance system. American and Australian data were compared for 1989–92 and New Zealand data for 1985–98 because of the small data set. More recent data existed only for the US, but the study was only possible at all with data on work related road deaths just becoming available for New Zealand.