Search FARS

FARS is the federal database of all police-reported fatal traffic incidents in the United States. It is intended to be complete accounting; it has come to my attention there are some known missing incidents.

This tool allows anyone to easily search the FARS database by exact date for the years from the most recent available (currently 2016) back to 2010. It also allows to filter by whether or not a pedestrian,  bicyclist, motorcyclist, or anybody was involved.

The tool only works for an exact date; the exact date is typically known and available via news items, e.g. the well-known fatality of Milt Olin occurred on 2013-12-08 yet does not appear in FARS for unknown reasons.

Access the tool at:

mysql.azbikelaw.org/asdmphp/queryFarsDate.php

Hints, if an incident appears missing, note the following:

  • sometimes the news mis-reports the exact date, try the days just before or after
  • motorized bicyclists are reported as motorcyclists (go figure). I would expect e-bicyclists to also be reported as motorcyclists.
  • If the date is known to be correct, try selecting “any” and look for the name of streets involved, if known
  • Note that not all bicyclist fatalities are included in FARS — FARS excludes incidents that do not involve a “motor vehicle in transport”, and only includes incidents that occur on a public way, for example.
  • ??

Clicking on the incident number link for any particular incident dumps the incident, person, vehicle, and PBType tables. The latter has the most helpful information in order to understand how a pedestrian or bicyclist crash; including specific directions and crash types.

A few years ago the LAB put out a report Every Bicyclist Counts with the sensational headline that 40% of bicyclist fatalities are strike from behind (“motorist-overtaking” in PBType-speak). The NHTSA, via FARS reports more like 25%. The disparity was never explained. I, among others, called into question the report’s methods; the LAB, incredibly, based their report on news media accounts; I also requested that the LAB release their data — which they never did. They should. Does the LAB know something that the NHTSA doesn’t? The LAB data should be correlated to FARS to see what’s missing. (the LAB presumably included some fatalities that would not qualify for inclusion in FAR by definition).

One thought on “Search FARS”

  1. Thanks for posting this. Any idea how we can interpret the data? Lots of categories but don’t know what they mean.


    Thanks for the comment, Bob. Well for the time being my main goal was to more-easily allow people to search FARS to try to identify potentially “missing” cases. We should be able to have confidence in the dataset being as complete as is humanly possible; there’s bound to be some error or omissions in any large dataset — but some have asserted there are “many” (whatever that means) missing cases

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