The need to improve information on road user type in National Vital Statistics System mortality data
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The need to improve information on road user type in National Vital Statistics System mortality data

Filetype[PDF-94.54 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Traffic Inj Prev
    • Description:

      Both the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) can be used to examine motor vehicle crash (MVC) deaths. These 2 data systems operate independently, using different methods to collect and code information about the type of vehicle (e.g., car, truck, bus) and road user (e.g., occupant, motorcyclist, pedestrian) involved in an MVC. A substantial proportion of MVC deaths in NVSS are coded as “unspecified” road user, which reduces the utility of the NVSS data for describing burden and identifying prevention measures. This study aimed to describe characteristics of unspecified road user deaths in NVSS to further our understanding of how these groups may be similar to occupant road user deaths.


      Using data from 1999 to 2015, we compared NVSS and FARS MVC death counts by road user type, overall and by age group, gender, and year. In addition, we examined factors associated with the categorization of an MVC death as unspecified road user such as state of residence of decedent, type of medical death investigation system, and place of death.


      The number of MVC occupant deaths in NVSS was smaller than that in FARS in each year and the number of unspecified road user deaths in NVSS was greater than that in FARS. The sum of the number of occupant and unspecified road user deaths in NVSS, however, was approximately equal to the number of FARS occupant deaths. Age group and gender distributions were roughly equivalent for NVSS and FARS occupants and NVSS unspecified road users. Within NVSS, the number of MVC deaths listed as unspecified road user varied across states and over time. Other categories of road users (motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, and pedestrians) were consistent when comparing NVSS and FARS.


      Our findings suggest that the unspecified road user MVC deaths in NVSS look similar to those of MVC occupants according to selected characteristics. Additional study is needed to identify documentation and reporting challenges in individual states and over time and to identify opportunities for improvement in the coding of road user type in NVSS.

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