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Railway fatalities account for approximately 10% of transport fatalities in Cape Town. The objective of this study was to examine alcohol intoxication as a risk factor during daylight hours by conducting a case - control study to compare rail passenger and pedestrian fatalities (cases) with motor vehicle passenger and pedestrian fatalities (controls). Rail passenger and rail pedestrian fatalities were defined as cases with motor vehicle passenger and pedestrian fatalities as the respective controls. Data were collected from post-mortem reports at two mortuaries from 1994 to 1996. Blood alcohol concentration was the dependent variable. The independent variables were age, gender, date of death, day of week, time of injury and external cause of death. The late afternoon and early evening period from 1600 hours to 1900 hours had the highest frequency of fatalities for all case and control groups. Of the 56 predominately male (89%) railway passenger cases with an average age of 34.5 (SD 12.5) years, Friday (27%) was the most frequent day of death. Railway pedestrian cases (89% male, average age 36.8 years (SD 13.3)) were more likely to be killed on a Monday (11% of cases). Among the controls, motor vehicle passengers (63% male, average age 39.9 (SD 15.5)) were more likely to die on a Sunday (25%) and pedestrians (82% male, average age 41 (SD 14.7)) on a Saturday (21%). The study showed that alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for rail fatalities during daylight hours, with rail passenger fatalities being 4.71 (1.72 - 12.88) and rail pedestrian fatalities 1.62 (0.98 - 2.69) times more likely to be intoxicated than the respective controls. The results provide more evidence for public health campaigners to tackle endemic alcohol abuse and to develop diverse interventions that do not exclusively target motor vehicle drivers.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot

Publication Date





81 - 88


Accidents, Adult, Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholic Intoxication, Ethanol, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Railroads, Retrospective Studies, Risk Factors, South Africa, Time Factors, Wounds and Injuries