Linking Adolescents’ Medical and Traffic Data: Creation of a Unique Database

Principal Investigator: Allison Curry, PhD, MPH, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Below is an executive summary of this project. Please note that this summary describes results and interpretation that may not be final. Final interpretation of results will be in the peer-reviewed literature.

Although state- and national-level crash report data have been invaluable to the traffic safety community, current limitations preclude traffic safety researchers from placing a teen driver’s crash event in the context of relevant previous or future experiences and events. Linking traffic safety data to other available data sources — licensing databases, hospital medical records, Emergency Medical Service records, and/or vital statistics databases —uniquely extends the richness and value of crash data. This project aimed to develop and refine methods to link patient medical data from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to New Jersey’s (NJ) traffic safety data, to execute the linkage for a sample of adolescents from CHOP’s NJ primary care and subspecialty care practices, and to assess the quality of the linkage.

By linking crash data of teen drivers to their licensing information, citation data, Census data, and childhood electronic medical records, researchers can generate a more complete assessment of teen drivers’ relevant history and experiences on the road.

A methodology was developed to individually link adolescents’ medical information from CHOP NJ primary and subspecialty care practices to their detailed driving record — including history of licensing, citations, and crashes. This linkage was performed for 65,149 NJ residents who were: 1) born between 1987 through 1994 (i.e., 17 years old at some point between 2004 and 2011); 2) patients at one of CHOP’s primary care or subspecialty care practices located in NJ; and 3) whose last known address was in NJ.

Among the population of 65,149 adolescents, 53,323 (81.85 percent) were linked with a unique license record, surpassing expectations set for each year of birth. This linkage rate was achieved using six linkage phases, each utilizing distinct and fairly stringent linkage criteria. Multiple methods were utilized to assess the quality of the linkage; each demonstrated high-quality results. The estimated true match rate was 99.81 percent, and the estimated false non-match rate was 1.99 percent. Additionally, the majority of CHOP records linked with a license record (99.67 percent) had matching values for gender in the two sources.

There are many potential applications for future traffic safety research using this linked database, including work that examines the association between medical conditions (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and concussion) and licensing and crash outcomes. The long-term goal of this line of research is to establish the scientific foundation for the development of evidence-based interventions that tailor the licensing and learning-to-drive process to, and ensure safe driving behaviors among, adolescents with these conditions.

Project Team Member

Melissa Pfeiffer, MPH, Independent Epidemiology Consultant


Sayaka Ogawa, Drexel University

IAB Mentors

Doug Longhitano, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Noelle Lavoie, Parallel Consulting