FARS, WISQARS and other online sources of violent death, mayhem and misadventure

Boingboing had a short notice about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System ("FARS"), plugging it as an all purpose dicing and slicing source for information on motor vehicle related deaths in the US. You can make your own custom queries to find out about auto fatalities in your own county. FARS is a great resource. But there is another one, hosted at CDC, that is even better: WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, "whiskers").

WISQARS reports injury statistics for each state over time. You can also compare your state to other states. For example, if you want to know about fatal injuries in your state, click on Fatal Injury Reports, then mortality data from 1999 and later. Now you have your choice of Report options. Try homicides and suicides, a sub-category of "intent or manner." Click the appropriate radio button. Now, for the second element in the Report, choose Firearms. Now get a Report for white males, 50 - 54 age groups to the 85+ age groups for the State of Tennessee (this is so MRK can have something to comment on). Don't choose Age Adjusting. That's something you might want to choose if you are comparing Tennessee to New York, but the age adjusted rate now is not the actual rate but an adjusted (fictitious) rate that allows comparisons to be made. If the age structure of Tennessee and the US population age structure in the year 2000 are quite similar, however, the "real" (crude) rate and the adjusted rate will be close. You can see the difference in adjusting by doing it both ways as an experiment.

Click Submit and back comes the report: 2005, Tennessee; Homicide/Legal Intervention Firearm Deaths and Rates per 100,000; White, Males, Ages 50 to 85+

Number of Deaths: 35;Population 725,611;Crude Rate: 4.82/100,000 white males age 50 and over

There's lots more on the WISQARS site, including maps of injuries and non-fatal injuries by different causes. There's a link for tutorials on the WISQARS Home page (scroll down to the two help sections toward the bottom of the page). Injury is the leading cause of death for most people up to age 45 or so and is in the top ten causes of death for every age group.

If you are in public health (or even if you aren't), spend some time with WISQARS. It's an eye-opener.


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Unfortunately, it seems that you need to have a little bit of hacker in your bloodstream in order for your eyes to get opened. :(

I went for the Ten leading causes of death and injury link, mostly because it was low-hanging fruit. The 2004 - For Web or Word Processor link pointed to a purported JPEG image which didn't render in either IE7 or Firefox 2.014 (Windows XPSP2) when I tried it.

I eventually got a postscript version to load in Adobe. But I found it purely by directory traversal, because after I got burned the once, I stopped trusting the web interface to steer me properly.

I haven't tried D/Ling the JPEG version of the data with Windows wget yet and really wringing it out.

This site apparently needs a little work yet.

By Charles Roten (not verified) on 17 Apr 2008 #permalink