Objectives In 1994, Robertson and Drummer formalised the responsibility analysis as an alternative to case-control studies in the study of road traffic crashes. Our objective was to assess whether published responsibility studies respected standards defining adequate case-control studies.
Setting Using Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar, we identified responsibility studies indexed until October 2013, which cited Robertson and Drummer's paper. After reviewing titles, abstracts and reference lists, we selected original studies comparing responsible and non-responsible drivers, published in peer-reviewed journals or proceedings.
Data and analysis We applied a grid to judge the conformity of the responsibility assessment to the original definition, and whether methods addressing representativeness of selection, accuracy of measures of exposures, confounding variables, and power met standards defining adequate case-control studies.
Results Of 205 titles, we identified 20 papers. Methods of responsibility assessment were the original in three papers. Variations across studies concerned the number of mitigating factors included, or the use of questionnaires rather than police data (n=3). The ratio responsible/non-responsible drivers varied from 0.90 to 5.31, due to major variations in sampling methods, threshold selection, and data completeness. Selection or measurement issues were discussed in 13 papers, but seldom addressed in the design. A comparison of confounding factors in responsible and non-responsible drivers was presented in five papers.
Conclusions Basic requirements of case-control studies are often not or not clearly met in responsibility studies. There is a need to revisit the method and to adapt existing publication standards to the way responsibility studies are reported.
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