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Safety Data Initiative

June 14, 2018
Updated: Monday, July 9, 2018

The Department of Transportation's (DOT) vision for the Safety Data Initiative is to integrate data sources with each other and with new 'big data' sources that are becoming available ‎to enhance our understanding of crash risk and our ability to mitigate it. The initiative seeks to build DOT's capacity to translate the successes of predictive data analytics tools used by private industry and universities to identify systemic factors contributing to serious crashes. It comprises three core components:

  • Data Visualization: Make data analysis and insights accessible to policy-makers through clear, compelling data visualizations;
  • Data Integration: Integrate existing DOT databases and new private sector data sources to answer safety questions; and
  • Predictive Insights: Use advanced analytic techniques to identify risk patterns and develop insights that anticipate and mitigate safety risk to reduce injuries and fatalities.

Solving for Safety: Visualization Challenge

DOT has launched a safety challenge asking participants to come up with innovative ways to visualize data that will reveal insights into serious crashes on our roads and rail systems while improving our understanding of transportation safety. For more information, visit the Solving for Safety page or read the press release announcing the challenge.

Pilot Projects

DOT initiated the Safety Data Initiative projects highlighted below to modernize its data analytics tools and integrate its traditional datasets with new “big data” sources to gain new safety insights.

Waze Pilot

DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center ("the Volpe Center") is leading a pilot project exploring the opportunity to estimate police-reported traffic crashes in near-real time by combining crowdsourced crash data from Waze with crash data provided by the State of Maryland via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Electronic Data Transfer pilot. The Volpe Center employed machine learning techniques with these datasets to train statistical models to predict crashes. In this pilot, DOT learned these models supported with Waze data produce reasonably good estimates of police-reported crashes. This pilot has laid the foundation needed for a future nationwide scale-up of a crash count tool.

Rural Speed Pilot

The rural speed pilot is an ongoing research effort to understand the contribution of prevailing speed, speed limit, and average travel speed to the prevalence and severity of crashes on rural highways. The pilot further seeks to understand the relationship roadway design and traffic volumes have with speed and crash outcomes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is using the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS) – anonymized data from GPS-enabled devices – to learn about speed’s role in crashes. The NPMRDS provides prevailing speeds at 5-minute intervals across the entire National Highway System. When combined with traditional datasets, the NPMRDS data can provide a closer look at speed’s role in crashes.

Pedestrian Fatalities Pilot

The pedestrian fatalities pilot sought to understand the relationship pedestrian fatalities may have with transportation system and built environment characteristics. Two key takeaways were discovered through analysis of data from FHWA, NHTSA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Census Bureau. In urban areas, traffic on non-access controlled arterials was found to significantly increase pedestrian fatality risk. Traffic on other urban roadways and all roadway types in rural areas also contributed to pedestrian fatality risk, but with weaker effects. Additionally, employment density in the retail sector was strongly associated with increased pedestrian fatality risk in both urban and rural areas. Lessons learned from this pilot may be used to understand place-specific risks.

Fatality Analysis Reporting System Data Visualization

NHTSA is experimenting with the presentation of its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data – a nationwide census of fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes – to supplement existing data summaries on specific topical areas. NHTSA is in the process of beta testing an interactive visualization of the 2016 Traffic Fact Sheet focused on speeding using visualization software. By creating more interactive information, the hope is to present the data in a new way that may be helpful to policy-makers and the general public.

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