Safety Report

Transportation Safety Databases

NTSB Number NTSB/SR-02/02
NTIS Number PB2002-917004

Executive Summary: The National Transportation Safety Board relies on many external databases when performing accident investigations, safety studies, and special investigations. Most of these databases are sponsored and operated by the modal administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The Board's ability to study important safety issues is often affected by poor data quality. The Board studied transportation safety databases to evaluate data quality issues and to encourage improvements in this area. The effort had four specific objectives: (a) highlight the value and potential uses of transportation safety data; (b) describe some accident and incident databases commonly used by the Board; (c) summarize past Board recommendations involving transportation data; and (d) evaluate Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) efforts to establish data quality standards, identify information gaps, and ensure compatibility among the safety data systems maintained by the DOT.

The Safety Board's past recommendations indicate that exposure data are not adequately detailed to support the analysis of risk factors for transportation accidents, reducing the ability of the Federal government to understand safety problems and target safety resources. BTS efforts to identify information gaps and to establish data quality standards are an important first step toward improving data quality. As a result of this finding, the Board issued a recommendation to the BTS to develop a long-term program to improve the collection of data describing exposure to transportation risk in the United States.