Priorities for developing and evaluating data quality characteristics of road crash data in Australia
The National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 outlines plans to reduce the burden of road trauma via improvements and interventions relating to safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and safe people. It also highlights that a key aspect in achieving these goals is the availability of comprehensive data on the issue. The use of data is essential so that more in-depth epidemiologic studies of risk can be conducted as well as to allow effective evaluation of road safety interventions and programs. Before utilising data to evaluate the efficacy of prevention programs it is important for a systematic evaluation of the quality of underlying data sources to be undertaken to ensure any trends which are identified reflect true estimates rather than spurious data effects. However, there has been little scientific work specifically focused on establishing core data quality characteristics pertinent to the road safety field and limited work undertaken to develop methods for evaluating data sources according to these core characteristics. There are a variety of data sources in which traffic-related incidents and resulting injuries are recorded, which are collected for a variety of defined purposes. These include police reports, transport safety databases, emergency department data, hospital morbidity data and mortality data to name a few. However, as these data are collected for specific purposes, each of these data sources suffers from some limitations when seeking to gain a complete picture of the problem. Limitations of current data sources include: delays in data being available, lack of accurate and/or specific location information, and an underreporting of crashes involving particular road user groups such as cyclists. This paper proposes core data quality characteristics that could be used to systematically assess road crash data sources to provide a standardised approach for evaluating data quality in the road safety field. The potential for data linkage to qualitatively and quantitatively improve the quality and comprehensiveness of road crash data is also discussed.