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Data for summer stories

U.S. roads and waterways get more dangerous over the summer months as vacationers hit the highway or fire up their boat motors.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), fatal vehicle accident rates typically inch up during the summer months and then decline during the fall.

It’s much the same on the waterways, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The high number of boating accidents mirrors the summer vacation season.

So, if your news organization is reporting on these accidents, two databases offered by the IRE and NICAR Database Library that you can use for background research and more in-depth stories.

First is FARS, for details about U.S. fatal highway accidents back to 1975. FARS can be tricky to work with, but it is a trove of information about the accidents, and the people and vehicles involved in them. For instance, you can examine the data to see whether a road has had a problem with fatal accidents. Chris Halsne and his colleagues at KIRO in Seattle recently used the FARS data to help document flaws in luxury recreational vehicles.

Second is the Coast Guard Recreational Boat Accident database. This easy-to-use database goes all the way back to 1969 and can help you pinpoint trouble spots on the water. Former boot camper Marc Chase at The Times of Northwest Indiana got the data a couple of years ago and found that unprepared boaters commonly were to blame in fatal boating accidents.

Interested in either database? Contact the database library.

-David Herzog

109 Lee Hills Hall, Missouri School of Journalism   |   221 S. Eighth St., Columbia, MO 65201   |   573-882-2042   |   |   Privacy Policy
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