Browse Publications Technical Papers 2007-01-0876

An Analysis of Vehicle Fire Rates in Fatal Crashes: Is there an Indication of Underreporting? 2007-01-0876

The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data sources include police accident reports, driver licensing records, vehicle registration files, coroner's and medical examiner's reports, emergency medical services (EMS) log sheets, death certificates, hospital reports, and roadway inventories, as examples. During this study we evaluated fire rates in fatal crashes in each State and considered if there is an indication of underreporting of fire occurrences in FARS.
Fire occurrence rates were calculated three ways: (1) per total number of vehicles in fatal crashes for that State in that year, (2) per 100,000 registered vehicles in that State for that year, and (3) per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in that State in that year.
We analyzed the FARS data, vehicle registration files, and VMT files for 2000-2002. The rate of fires per number of vehicles in fatal crashes for 2000-2002 ranged from 0.40% in Utah to 6.04% in Minnesota with the national average at 2.91%. Fire occurrence rates also varied substantially by vehicle type: Large trucks - 5.33%; Other trucks - 4.78%; Large vans - 3.14%; Pick-up trucks - 3.06%; SUVs - 2.94%; Passenger cars - 2.73%; Mini vans - 2.15%; Motorcycles - 1.47%; Buses - 1.24%; Other vehicles - 0.90%. The highest fire occurrence rate was at an impact direction of 6 o'clock (3.84% initial impact; 3.89% subsequent impact).
Of the 10 States with very low reported fire rates, 4 States used only the police accident report (PAR) as their source of coding. Only 3 of the 10 States receive and use the death certificate for coding fire occurrence. Every effort should be made to obtain access to key data as an aid to reporting fires in FARS. Death certificates, medical examiners or coroners reports, emergency medical service reports and even news clippings of the fatal crash would all help in the coding of fires.


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