One of the most promising areas of the burgeoning Vision Zero movement is the power of smarter data analysis to help build greater awareness of and urgency for making our streets safe for all, as well as to focus resources most efficiently and effectively for that change. This smart usage of data – combined with understanding people’s on-the-ground experiences not always captured fully by data – can be a powerful tool to build consensus and action for Vision Zero strategies and decision-making and, over time, results.
This growing access to data, though, can also be a challenge. Who’s collecting traffic safety data? How are they sharing it with other stakeholders, including the public? How up-to-date and reliable is the data? How is the data used and kept secure? All important questions and challenges – and answerable and manageable with the right tools, policies and goals in mind.
The Vision Zero Network recently hosted a webinar – Unlocking the Power of Your Data – to highlight some of the ways communities are leveraging smart data collection and analysis toward on-the-ground results for safe mobility.
New Jersey’s Experience Using Data to Focus, Build Consensus
Joseph Weiss, a transportation safety analyst with the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, shared his experience working across the state with 560 law enforcement agencies and many transportation management associations and non-profits to advance roadway safety. As in many states, those numbers and vastness of programs may seem daunting. For Weiss, improving upon the collection, analysis, and usage of safety data was critical to efforts to focus and build consensus toward change in New Jersey.
Traditionally, as in many places, it seemed law enforcement often viewed the purpose of police reports as straightforward records for insurance claims, so there was little incentive to spend greater energy on improving or sharing crash data. Initially, Weiss was manually combining crash data from many departments across the state, which was neither workable nor particularly insightful. An agency would know the number of crashes but had no ability to map predominant dangerous behaviors, such as high speeds or drunk driving, or the number of pedestrians involved, or even the time of day that serious crashes were occurring.
Weiss connected with Numetric, a traffic safety analytics solutions provider, which works to help data owners, such as his agency, better understand the crash patterns and underlying factors. With Numetric’s help, agencies such as the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety can bring together all of their data, more easily understand where and why crashes are happening, and share their analysis in the cloud with other stakeholders to more thoughtfully and effectively implement safety countermeasures and programs. This helped the agency meet its goals of combining data from different systems, systematically analyzing and sharing data out, and helping the law enforcement community, transportation planners, and partner agencies benefit from the information.
Other benefits have included the ability to more easily illustrate the needs represented in the data findings by creating visuals that stakeholders and the public can directly see, and hence better understand what’s happening. Another benefit is that this more transparent and logical data analysis process has helped better illustrate to individual law enforcement officers the importance of the accuracy and consistency in crash reports.
There were questions from webinar participants about the costs of the program, which, not surprisingly, depends on the size and scope of the needs. It’s worth noting that much of this work is fundable using federal resources such as Highway Safety Improvement program (HSIP) & 405c funds.
You can learn more about New Jersey’s experience working at a deeper level with data analytics for statewide traffic safety efforts in this brief case study. And find out more about Numetric’s partnerships with cities and states to hasten and improve the effectiveness of Vision Zero approaches in this two-page summary or this video.