Road traffic injuries are a neglected global public health problem. Over 1.25 million people are killed each year, and middle-income countries, which are motorising rapidly, are the hardest hit. Sri Lanka is dealing with an injury-related healthcare crisis, with a recent 85% increase in road traffic fatality rates. Road traffic crashes now account for 25 000 injuries annually and 10 deaths daily. Development of a trauma registry is the foundation for injury control, care and prevention. Five northern Sri Lankan provinces collaborated with Jaffna Teaching Hospital to develop a local electronic registry. The Centre for Clinical Excellence and Research was established to provide organisational leadership, hardware and software were purchased, and data collectors trained. Initial data collection was modified after implementation challenges were resolved. Between 1 June 2017 and 30 September 2017, 1708 injured patients were entered into the registry. Among these patients, 62% were male, 76% were aged 21–50, 71.3% were motorcyclists and 34% were in a collision with another motorcyclist. There were frequent collisions with uncontrolled livestock (12%) and with fixed objects (14%), and most patients were transported by private vehicles without prehospital care. Head (n=315) and lower extremity (n=497) injuries predominated. Establishment of a trauma registry in low-income and middle-income countries is a significant challenge and requires invested local leadership; the most challenging issue is ongoing funding. However, this pilot registry provides a valuable foundation, identifying unique injury mechanisms, establishing priorities for prevention and patient care, and introducing the concept of an organised system to this region.