banner of Methodology for Determining Motorcycle Operator Crash Risk and Alcohol Impairment

3. Detailed Report of Discussion

General Issues

Data Sources

The following sources of data were identified as being potentially useful for some of the approaches described above. Some are data repositories which may be useful. Some are existing surveys to which motorcycle/alcohol-related questions might be added.

  • National Roadside Survey (NRS)—National Roadside Surveys have been conducted three times in the past (1973, 1986, and 1996). “The National Roadside Survey of 1996 collected data between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in the 48 contiguous States. Drivers were selected for interviews and breath tests by a geographically stratified sample. The NRS collected data on BAC, seat belt use, number of passengers, type of vehicle, and demographic characteristics of surveyed drivers” (Web site: Motorcyclists have been excluded from the two previous National Roadside Surveys due to the added complexity of transporting impaired motorcyclists and their motorcycles, compared to automobiles. Planning for and including motorcyclists in a future NRS could collect significant amounts of data. However, given the relative infrequency of motorcycles in the traffic stream, it is unlikely that enough cases could be collected using this data source alone.
  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)—FARS has been a primary source of data for studies using fatal crash data.  The following description of FARS has been compiled from multiple NHTSA Web sites: The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) contains data on a census of fatal traffic crashes within the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. To be included in FARS, a crash must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a trafficway customarily open to the public and result in the death of a person (occupant of a vehicle or a nonoccupant) within 30 days of the crash. FARS has been operational since 1975 and has collected information on over 989,451 motor vehicle fatalities and collects information on over 100 different coded data elements that characterize the crash, the vehicle, and the people involved.  Data on fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes are gathered from the State's own source documents, and are coded on standard FARS forms. FARS analysts obtain the documents needed to complete the FARS forms, which generally include some or all of the following: Police Accident Reports (PARs), State vehicle registration files, State driver licensing files, State Highway Department data, vital statistics, death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, hospital medical records, emergency medical service reports.  All data elements are reported on four forms. The Accident Form records information such as the time and location of the crash, the first harmful event, whether it is a hit-and-run crash, whether a school bus was involved, and the number of vehicles and people involved. The Vehicle and Driver Forms record data on each crash-involved vehicle and driver. Data include the vehicle type, initial and principle impact points, most harmful event, and drivers' license status.  The Person Form contains data on each person involved in the crash, including age, gender, role in the crash (driver, passenger, nonmotorist ), injury severity, BAC and restraint use.  Additionally, there are FARS Alcohol files which contain driver and nonoccupant BAC values and estimates, where BAC is not available (Web site:
  • Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) —“CODES is a collaborative approach to obtain medical and financial outcome information related to motor vehicle crashes for highway safety and injury control decision making. It evolved as the result of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, which provided funds to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to report to Congress about the benefits of safety belts and motorcycle helmets for persons involved in motor vehicle crashes. To measure benefits in terms of reducing death, disability, and medical costs, NHTSA determined that statewide data were needed that included all persons involved in police-reported crashes -- those who were injured or who died as well as those who were not injured. In this manner, comparisons between those using and not using safety belts or motorcycle helmets could be made by identifying and contrasting the characteristics of the injured and uninjured persons within each of the restraint use groups. The CODES Report on the Benefits of Safety Belts and Helmets was delivered to Congress in February, 1996, and is available for download as a pdf document” (Web site:
  • National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB)—A product of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), “The National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) is a national repository of data. The NTDB is a database which serves as a central repository of data for a broad variety of commercial registry programs. The NTDB encourages broad participation and is a subscription service. Periodic standard reports are generated from the NTDB providing data on a national basis. This allows facilities to compare trends and other important data. The NTDB is located at the ACS in Chicago, Illinois” (Web site:
  • Crash Injury Research & Engineering Network—“The Crash Injury Research & Engineering Network (CIREN) is a multi-center research program involving a collaboration of clinicians and engineers in academia, industry, and government. Together, they are pursuing in-depth studies of crashes, injuries, and treatments to improve processes and outcomes. CIREN’s mission is to improve the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of motor vehicle crash injuries to reduce deaths, disabilities, and human and economic costs”
    (Web site: The CIREN database is not currently structured to allow the collection of data related to motorcyclists.
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)—“In the early 1980s, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worked with the States to develop the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Now active in all 50 States, the BRFSS is the primary source of information on major health risk behaviors among Americans. States use standard procedures to collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults. Telephone surveys conducted to monitor State-level prevalence of the major behavioral risks among adults associated with premature morbidity and mortality. The basic philosophy is to collect data on actual behaviors, rather than on attitudes or knowledge, that would be especially useful for planning, initiating, supporting, and evaluating health promotion and disease prevention programs. CDC developed a standard core questionnaire for States to use to provide data that could be compared across States. The BRFSS, administered and supported by the Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, is an ongoing data collection program. By 1994, all States, the District of Columbia, and three Territories were participating in the BRFSS” (Web site:
  • National Household Survey on Drug Abuse—“The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) is the primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of drug and alcohol use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, age 12 and older. It is conducted by SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies (OAS). Occasionally OAS produces methodology reports, detailed tables, and other NHSDA reports that are available only on the Web” (Web site:
  • National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behavior—“Every two years the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts a nationwide survey on the attitudes and behaviors of the general public related to drinking and driving.

    The findings of these surveys are intended to guide people working in the prevention and law enforcement fields in programmatic planning, and to provide data that will assist in obtaining funding for such programs. Due to the length of the report, the summaries have been divided into three sections: (1) attitudes and behavior, (2) intervention strategies, and (3) attitudes about DWI laws” (No Web site currently available).
  • Multiple Cause-of-Death Mortality Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics “provide mortality data by multiple cause of death for all deaths occurring within the United States. Each record in the microdata is based on information abstracted from death certificates filed in vital statistics offices of each State and District of Columbia. Causes of death were coded according to the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision” (Web site: There was concern expressed at the meeting that it is not possible to reliably identify motorcycle operators in these data.
  • National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS)—“The National Household Travel Survey [formerly known as the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey  and the American Travel Survey] are household-based travel surveys conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Survey data are collected from a sample of U.S. households and expanded to provide national estimates of trips and miles by travel mode, purpose, and a host of other characteristics. The survey collects information on daily, local trips and on long-distance travel in the United States” (Web site:

Other potential sources of data that might be used, many of which have already been mentioned earlier in this report, include Hospital Admissions Records, Emergency Room Records, Coroner’s Records, EMS Records, Court Records, and Roadside Surveys. In the past, useful data have been collected through the use of supplemental crash report forms for police. This involves providing police in a specific area with forms that are to be used for specific types of crashes (e.g., motorcycle crashes).