The Fatality Analysis Reporting System as a tool for investigating racial and ethnic determinants of motor vehicle crash fatalities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Accident Analysis & Prevention

Publication Date


Date Added



The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) is a Department of Transportation database in the public domain that contains detailed information about fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States since 1975. However, data on race and Hispanic ethnicity were not collected by FARS until 1999. Since then, completeness of reported racial and ethnic information has varied from State to State. To assess utility of FARS for investigating race- and ethnicity-specific risk factors associated with motor vehicle crash mortality, we examined yearly national and State-specific reporting rates of race and Hispanic ethnicity for 168,863 motor vehicle crash fatalities from 1999 to 2002. In 1999, national reporting was 85% for race and 78% for Hispanic ethnicity. Over the 4-year study period, a significant linear increase in annual reporting for both race and Hispanic ethnicity was evident at the national level, as reporting by individual States improved over time. In 2002, national reporting rates reached 90% for race and 88% for Hispanic ethnicity. Our findings indicate that FARS has become a valuable resource for population-based studies of motor vehicle crash mortality disparities that exist among racial and ethnic subpopulations in the United States.


Public Health