Vehicle Fire Data: Different Sources, Different Goals, Different Conclusions? 2007-01-0877
Objective: To provide an understanding of the scope of the major sources of vehicle fire data, the questions they were intended to answer, and how issues of definition, inclusion, and quality can affect the conclusions obtained.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), by definition, focuses on fatal accidents. NHTSA also maintains the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES).These systems capture data on roadway accidents that resulted in injury, fatality or property damage and which were reported to police. The GES system is based upon data recorded in the police accident report. In addition, some databases of police accident reports are publicly available.
The U.S. Fire Administration's (USFA's) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) is used by fire departments to document details about all types of fires. The same coding system is used for structure, vehicle and outside fires. The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA's) annual fire department survey produces estimates of vehicle fires and associated losses without additional detail. NFIRS and the NFPA survey are used together to provide national estimates of specific fire causes and circumstances. Vehicle fire data includes fires of all causes and fires occurring on road and non-road properties.
Each source provides useful information about some aspect of vehicle fires. This paper will: describe the strengths and weaknesses of each data source, document the type of vehicle fire data captured in each source (e.g. all vehicle fires or only collision fires), and help identify the most appropriate source to answer specific questions. It also addresses some of the quality and completeness issues associated with each source.