Winter 2002, p.16

State Agencies Take Giant Step Forward in Understanding Traffic Crashes

Read the latest news on this issue.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a map must be worth millions. Since 1997, T.A. has found that computer crash mapping is a powerful tool in our campaigns for pedestrian safety. T.A. maps State DOT crash data onto computer maps of NYC to locate problem spots and uses these maps to illustrate problems for our campaign targets.

Unfortunately, the technology is far from perfect; the data is messy and full of errors. Finally, though, New York State is planning to overhaul the mapping program - a long-needed improvement. The revamped crash mapping system promises to bring a new level of accountability to traffic safety in New York State.

This past August, the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, NYS DOT and the New York State Office for Technology signed a $5.3 million contract to streamline the crash mapping process and increase productivity and accuracy. The lead consultant on the project will be ESRI, the maker of the popular Geographic Information Software (GIS), ArcView and ArcInfo. The fruits of this collaboration, the new crash database, will not be available until 2004. But it is worth the wait. It will be easier for agency departments, elected officials and non-governmental organizations to work with a more accurate database that uses the more accessible ESRI formats.

The current crash data system is far from ideal; the State's data does not work with NYC agencies' maps, some types of crashes are unmappable and others just end up in the wrong place. After years of frustration with these problems, T.A. developed an innovative GIS system that quickly cleans up and maps the enormous database of crashes (more than a million lines of data). The program, the result of a collaboration with the computer firm Sam-6, more than adequately serves T.A.'s needs and is potentially useful to any other agency that wants to use the SDOT database. However, it has long been clear to us that the crash-mapping system needs to be cleaned up at its source. Kudos to New York State for taking the lead in developing this valuable new technology.

Maps with graduated circles showing a range of crash rates quickly reveal traffic hot spots. The Bronx Safe Routes to School.