Center for Injury Research and Prevention

The Value in Linked Traffic Databases

April 4, 2016

Moderator’s Note: This post was authored by Siobhan Gruschow MPH, MEd, who served as a research coordinator on the CIRP Teen Driver Safety Research team. In particular, Ms. Gruschow coordinated the New Jersey Traffic Safety and Outcomes (NJ-TSO) Program. As of July 2016, Ms. Gruschow has left CIRP to pursue her career elsewhere.

Administrative traffic databases contain a wealth of information; however, they are often maintained and analyzed in isolation. Linkage of these datasets can improve states’ ability to monitor trends, set priorities, and evaluate the impact of various initiatives intended to improve traffic safety--all critical steps to improving the safety and well-being of communities.

This work is complex and requires a range of knowledge and skill sets, making academic-government partnerships a practical solution. By joining forces, states can tap into the complementary skills of both researchers and practitioners to successfully address these challenges.

Over the past five years, with the support of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, Department of Transportation, and Division of Highway Traffic Safety, CIRP@CHOP has been working to develop and analyze a unique comprehensive database of linked New Jersey traffic-related data sets. Our goals were to:

  • advance injury methods
  • inform young driver policy
  • enhance our understanding of traffic safety, both in the state of NJ and nationally

For example, CIRP@CHOP recently collaborated with the NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety to develop the state’s annual report on young driver crashes. During this collaboration, we developed the New Jersey Traffic Safety Outcomes (NJ-TSO) Program database, which includes:

  • full licensing history
  • detailed data on all police-reported crashes and traffic citations
  • zip-code level Census population estimates for all NJ drivers

CIRP@CHOP’s expertise in epidemiologic methods allows us to determine data quality and ensure the rigor of analyses, while our government partners provide insight into their data collection methods and guidance on what information is needed for programs, policymakers, and stakeholders.

This partnership allowed us to create a laser-focused scope of work to produce a final report that is not only meaningful for practitioners, but also a great way for us to illuminate the nuances of traffic safety research methods and the richness of the available data. For example, New Jersey has the most progressive and comprehensive Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions in the country; but without this partnership, the state would not have known empirically that its robust program reduces young novice driver crashes.

Quantifying adverse driving outcomes (police-reported crash rates and the fatalities and injuries connected to these crashes) for each licensure phase (learner, intermediate, and full) and highlighting disparities and emerging trends for novice drivers is critical information for New Jersey to evaluate the effectiveness of its GDL program and to consider other provisions to strengthen it even more.

Our academic-government collaboration can serve as a model for other states that are interested in optimizing the value of their administrative traffic safety data to inform state activities.

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