Crash Data Collection: Keeping Focus on Children

July 18, 2013

Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is holding a public meeting to gather input on its efforts to significantly upgrade the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) for the first time since NASS’s inception in the 1970’s. NASS collects data on a nationally representative sample of police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes and related injuries, and therefore plays a pivotal role in research, legislation, and policy. CIRP@CHOP has been working with NHTSA since 2007 to develop the National Child Occupant Special Study (NCOSS), a system for collecting supplemental child-specific data as part of NASS-GES (General Estimates System), and will continue to be vocal in ensuring the unique safety needs of children are considered as NASS is modernized.

CIRP@CHOP has completed a feasibility study and three NCOSS pilot studies with an objective of developing, implementing and evaluating the procedures required to collect supplemental child-focused data on a sample of NASS-GES cases:

  • The first pilot study, completed in 2010, created and tested subject contact and consent procedures on a diverse sample of over 600 children in motor vehicle crashes (MVCs). The results showed that creating procedures to identify cases for supplemental child-specific data collection based on the NASS-GES system was feasible, but there was more work to be done.
  • In 2011, the second pilot study was conducted to evaluate the data collection instrument. The survey (an updated version of the validated Partners for Child Passenger Safety survey) asked over 500 parents of recently injured children in three urban pediatric emergency departments to report on their child’s injuries to specific body regions at two weeks post-ED visit. When the responses were compared to injury data abstracted from medical records, results showed parents accurately identified whether their child had a moderate or greater severity injury 95 percent of the time. These results indicated the survey was a reliable tool for supplemental data collection from parents. The principal investigator, Allison Curry, provides perspective in a March 14, 2013 post.
  • The final pilot study, conducted in 2012, tested enhanced methods of encouraging eligible subjects to participate in NCOSS. In this pilot, 495 families were identified from the NASS-GES system and assigned a survey mode (telephone or self-administered hard copy) based on the availability of contact information on the Police Accident Report. All participants received a branded study notification packet while a random sample of 50 percent of all drivers in each survey mode was offered a monetary incentive. Surveys were completed by 127 drivers (25.7% of those contacted), providing data on 181 child occupants. Response rates varied by mode and incentive condition, with the highest response rate in the telephone-incentive condition (45.9%).

By leveraging the strengths of NASS-GES to identify a sufficient number of MVCs involving children and collecting supplemental child-focused data, NCOSS can serve as an invaluable tool to monitor CPS trends, answer important epidemiologic questions about injury risk, guide public policy, and ultimately prevent pediatric injury and death in MVCs. Diverse funding support for all three pilots, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Automotive Occupant Restraints Council, Global Automakers, Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies, and Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center, demonstrates that many safety organizations join CHOP in recognizing the unique needs of children in traffic safety. For more information about NCOSS, click here.