Linking hospital discharge and police traffic crash records has been used to provide information on causes and outcomes for hospitalised traffic crash cases. Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to injury in a traffic crash, but no published linkage studies have reported in detail on this road user group. The present study examined motorcycle traffic crash injury cases in New Zealand in 2000-2004 by probabilistically linking national hospital discharge records with police traffic crash reports. Injury cases had to have spent at least one night in hospital before being discharged and were defined as serious or moderate based on their International Classification of Disease Injury Severity Scores (ICISS). Despite a robust linkage process, only 46% of cases could be linked to a police record; 60% of the serious injuries and 41% of the moderate. The low linkage was most likely due to under-reporting of crashes to or by the police. While moderate injury cases were expected to be under-reported, the level of under-reporting of cases with serious threat-to-life injuries is concerning. To assess whether the linked dataset could provide valid information on the crash circumstances and injury outcomes of hospitalised motorcycle crash cases, the characteristics of the linked and unlinked hospital discharge cases were compared using chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression. Serious injury cases were less likely to be linked if only one vehicle was involved, or the injured riders and passengers were younger than 20 years or spent less than one week in hospital. For moderate injury cases, there were also differences in linkage by injured body region and crash month. While these discrepancies need to taken into consideration when interpreting results, the linked hospital-police dataset has the potential to provide insights into motorcycle crash circumstances and outcomes not otherwise obtainable.
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