How accurate is the identification of serious traffic injuries by Police? The concordance between Police and hospital reported traffic injuries
Police reported crash data are the primary source of crash information in most jurisdictions. However, the definition of serious injury within police-reported data is not consistent across jurisdictions and may not be accurate. With the Australian National Road Safety Strategy targeting the reduction of serious injuries, there is a greater need to assess the accuracy of the methods used to identify these injuries. A possible source of more accurate information relating to injury severity is hospital data. While other studies have compared police and hospital data to highlight the under-reporting in police-reported data, little attention has been given to the accuracy of the methods used by police to identify serious injuries. The current study aimed to assess how accurate the identification of serious injuries is in police-reported crash data, by comparing the profiles of transport-related injuries in the Queensland Road Crash Database with an aligned sample of data from the Queensland Hospital Admitted Patients Data Collection. Results showed that, while a similar number of traffic injuries were recorded in both data sets, the profile of these injuries was different based on gender, age, location, and road user. The results suggest that the ‘hospitalisation’ severity category used by police may not reflect true hospitalisations in all cases. Further, it highlights the wide variety of severity levels within hospitalised cases that are not captured by the current police-reported definitions. While a data linkage study is required to confirm these results, they highlight that a reliance on police-reported serious traffic injury data alone could result in inaccurate estimates of the impact and cost of crashes and lead to a misallocation of valuable resources.