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12 Hazardous Materials Transportation Incident Data for Root Cause Analysis In reviewing data quality, agencies were interviewed and questioned concerning the checks that are made to ensure data accuracy and completeness. These interviews are discussed in Chapter 3. In addition to using answers to questions administered to representatives of these agencies, the study team analyzed the databases to gather information on data quality. The most effective method employed was using one database to confirm the data quality of another. That is, the team compared two databases in order to identify missing or incomplete data or, in some cases, crashes that should have been included but were not part of the database. The project focused on addressing the following issues: Availability of accident data for the transportation of hazardous materials, Criteria for reporting the accidents, Database format and availability (e.g., online, paper, other), How data files can be coordinated or integrated, How the data are used by each agency to analyze trends, How the data are compiled for analysis, Methods used to improve data quality, Usefulness of the database for identifying root causes, Techniques used to link the database to another database describing the same crash, and Suggestions for enhancing the usefulness of the database for identifying root causes. 1.3 Effective Methods to Ensure High-Quality Data The research team relied heavily on the TIFA database for examining truck crashes. This data- base is recognized in the truck safety community as being both comprehensive and of high qual- ity. The accident records contained in TIFA are the result of careful data checking using police accident reports and an intensive program of additional data collection on a fatal truck crash. This process involves direct contact with key parties such as police, carriers, and tow truck drivers. The research team used TIFA as a benchmark to compare fatal truck accidents occur- ring in other databases with those in TIFA. A similar technique of data confirmation and augmentation was used for the Hazmat Serious Truck Crash Project conducted for FMCSA from 2002 to 2005. Police accident reports were checked against a crash description in MCMIS and carriers were interviewed by telephone to supplement the information in MCMIS. This process was followed for approximately 1,000 hazmat accidents identified in the MCMIS database and supplemented where possible with data from the HMIRS database. Supplementing the data provided key information that shed light on the root cause and major contributors to hazmat accidents. For example, one of the carriers interviewed reported that tank trucks, because of the higher center of gravity when full, are more difficult to handle; therefore, they are more prone to rollover. This suggests that driver experience might be important. Consequently, one of the questions asked during carrier interview was the number of years of driving experience the driver had at the time of the accident. The results from this question were significant--drivers with less than five years of experience had a larger fraction of cargo tank accidents resulting in rollovers than did more experienced drivers. The same analysis showed that rollovers were the most common precursor to a hazmat release in an accident. Based in part on lessons learned from the process of compiling TIFA and the Hazmat Serious Truck Crash Project databases, the research team looked for answers to the following questions: 1. Is it possible to have a high-quality database without follow-up correspondence (contacts) with the reporting entity? 2. How much correspondence is required and what type is most effective?