Four E's of crash analytics, part 2: Enforcement

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Last week I introduced this series. Today I begin to dive deeper into each of the four E's. First up? Enforcement.

In 2009, there were 5.5 million police-reported traffic crashes.  Law enforcement officers work diligently to prevent crashes by enforcing traffic safety laws pertaining to, among other things, seat belt use, child passenger protection, speeding, driving while impaired and distracted driving. Studies have shown that increased enforcement and educational campaigns can yield big results in terms of changing driver behavior.  One example, “Click it Or Ticket”, has helped achieve a nationwide seatbelt use of 85 percent—saving an estimated 72,000 lives between 2005 and 2009 alone.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adheres to five essential components of traffic safety law enforcement, which break down roughly like this. There must be traffic laws and guidelines for enforcing them, law enforcement officers must respond to violations and issue necessary citations, which must be adjudicated and appropriate sanctions handed out.

Law enforcement officers are usually the first to arrive at a crash scene of a crash, and are responsible for capturing important data, including:

  • Weather and pavement conditions at time of crash
  • When the crash happened
  • Violations committed
  • Fatality and injury information
  • Complete information about all vehicles involved in the crash
  • Driver information, including driver’s license information, license status and conviction history
  • Other crash scene information, including whether it happened at an intersection and what the traffic volume was like at the time of the crash.
  • Information about any commercial vehicles involved, the driver and their load

The data is typically housed in the state crash database and used to report state-specific crash information to the federal government, help make resource allocation decisions and prioritize traffic safety programs. By applying analytics to that data, state DOTs, public safety agencies and traffic safety offices can make proactive resource and funding decisions about education and enforcement campaigns that will yield the greatest return on investment.

Additionally, the data can help traffic safety agencies make decisions on how to best use each of the four E’s. For example, if an analysis of the data shows an increase in alcohol-related crashes at a particular intersection, police can optimize resources by stepping up DUI enforcement in that area.  Another challenge facing law enforcement is identifying repeat offenders and unlicensed drivers. Applying analytics to traffic citations, driver history and motor vehicle title and registration data would provide law enforcement officers with the ability to identify high risk drivers and target their enforcement efforts.

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About Author

Melissa Savage

Sr Industry Consultant, State and Local Government

Melissa Savage is a subject matter expert with SAS Institute, Inc. focusing on transportation issues facing state and local governments. Prior to her position with SAS Institute, Inc. Ms. Savage was a Program Director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in the Energy, Environment & Transportation program. During her 13 years with NCSL, Ms. Savage authored several publications on transportation issues, testified before state legislative committees and represented NCSL and the interests of state legislatures before national transportation organizations and working groups on a variety of topics. Before working at NCSL, Melissa worked in the Office of Legislative Legal Services at the Colorado General Assembly. She received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.

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