Thursday, February 09, 2017

State highway patrols using data to predict crash sites to reduce fatalities; Indiana's site made public

I-65 near Austin, Ind. Dots
are where crashes have previously
occurred, with red indicating injury,
black no injury. ( map)
Some state highway patrols are beginning to use predictive crash software as a way "to predict where serious or fatal traffic accidents are likely to take place so they can try to prevent them," Jenni Bergal reports for Stateline. The vast majority of U.S. highway mileage is in rural areas.

Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the Governors' Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway-safety offices, told Bergal, "This has a tremendous potential to help save lives by pinpointing where the crashes occur and digging deep into the data and using that to make decisions."

Tennessee, which launched its program in 2013 through federal grants, has been one of the nation's leaders in using the software, Bergal writes. "The program’s software merges every crash report in the state, weather conditions, information about special events and traffic enforcement citations. It produces a map that shows the likelihood of a serious crash or fatality within 6-by-7-mile areas in four-hour increments every day. Troopers can check the map in their cars and patrol those targeted areas when they have the time. Supervisors also use the data to put together enforcement plans for the month, including where to set up safety belt and sobriety checkpoints."

"Patrick Dolan, who manages the highway patrol’s statistics office, said his agency’s average response time to crashes dropped nearly 33 percent between 2012-2016, from 37 to 25 minutes," Bergal writes. While national traffic fatalities rose seven percent from 2013 to 2015, they dropped in Tennessee from 995 to 962. Tennessee fatalities rose to 1,042 last year, but that eight percent increase mirrored the national increase, largely because of a better economy and cheaper gas prices, says federal officials. "Tennessee officials say it’s too early to know whether they need to rework the predictive model or if the spike is related to other factors, such as more traffic on the roads."

Other states have been slow to get on board, largely because of costs, Bergal writes. Missouri, where fatal crashes rose from 683 to 850 from 2013-2015, plans to start its program in January 2018. Wisconsin plans to launch a program this year. Indiana has made its crash predictive data public. First Sgt. Rob Simpson told Bergal, “We’re using this to better inform the public about potential hazards. Maybe someone will click on it and decide they want to take a different route to work or allow more time."

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