Data-Driven Research for Safer Driving

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We live in a time when the world is advancing technologically at exponential rates. Many of these recent technological advances have increased the comfort and ease of modern-day life; from high-speed internet and smart-phones to GPS devices and high-tech medical devices. Some have even revolutionized industries: new statistical tracking abilities made Nate Silver a superstar at predicting future political elections with uncanny accuracy, changing journalism forever. New video analysis, data compilations, and economic algorithms (as created by Bill James in baseball, Kevin Pelton in basketball) have forever changed athletics toward a focus on perfect efficiency.

Could similar technological improvement and data tracking also work its way into automobile safety? As motorists, humans have proven (through millions of injuries and fatalities since the invention of the automobile) they are not fully capable of maintaining their own safety in cars: human error, as well as distracted and reckless driving, still occur. Perhaps by further utilizing “robotic” developments, improvement to humans’ car safety could continue to increase.

Mission of GHSA: Threefold

The GHSA (Governors’ Highway Safety Administration) believes that a greater mixture of technology and car safety can be beneficial to curbing reckless driving: especially speeding and “aggressive” driving. Despite some recent improvement in safety numbers, such as decreased DUI fatalities and increased seat-belt usage, speeding continues to be the cause in over one-third of driving fatalities. GHSA defines speeding as: “committing a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

In order to combat the problem of aggressive driving and speeding, the GHSA supports the following 3 approaches (which will be further outlined below):

  1. Increased Data Driven Law Enforcement – including research on new stringent laws, decriminalization of speeding, use of speed limits, etc.
  2. Technological Advances – new devices in additional to traditional law enforcement personnel
  3. Public Information and Education Programs – focusing on the dangers of aggressive driving, providing tips for safer driving and publicize upcoming enforcement programs

1. Data-Driven Law Enforcement

Target Zero (Washington State)

The Target Zero is one example of the GHSA’s goal to increase data-drive law enforcement. The name “Target Zero” comes from the State of Washington’s goal to have zero fatalities in 2030. Target Zero makes all data from traffic incidents available to the public in easy-to-comprehend terms that are simple to implement. An example of their data presentation is as follows:

 

Using this data on speeding and impaired driving, the Target Zero went off issuing specific new goals in problem areas. During the first year of the pilot program, the Washington State Patrol sent a special 23-men night-time task force, whose sole purpose was to patrol impaired driving at night. Traffic fatalities decreased by 40.3% in Snohomish County, Washington during the year of the study, as opposed to 12.3% in the rest of the country.

DUI Checkpoints

Another great new method to improving levels of traffic fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving is called sobriety checkpoints, where law enforcement officers can force any and all drivers under suspicion of driving to pull over. The driver is then subject to a sobriety test and then either arrested and charged or sent free. A full listing of past checkpoints in Utah can be found here. According to Elder 2012,

Highly visible sobriety checkpoint programs have been shown to be an effective method of reducing alcohol-related driving crashes

Utah is currently one of 38 U.S. states that permits and actively engages in sobriety checkpoints.

2. Technological Advances

Some new technological developments have actually been detrimental to law enforcement, such as laser or radar detectors. The GHSA actually supports the banning of such equipment permanently due to its function in undermining the ability of police officers to regulate traffic and protect the public’s safety. Luckily, some new technologies work to increase efficiency and accuracy of traffic regulation.

Speed and Red Light Cameras

According the GHSA, cameras designed to photograph speeding cars (known as blitz boxes in some countries) or drivers running red lights is a proper method for deterring violators. These devices are not meant to replace traffic regulation techniques implemented by law enforcement, but to augment as a further increase to safety awareness.

Advanced technologies, such as Lidar and speed cameras, have proven to be effective tools in ensuring compliance with speed limits and other traffic laws. GHSA supports the use of automated enforcement technology in efforts to enforce speed, red light running and other traffic laws and urges states to enact legislation allowing the use of these technologies by the law enforcement community.

In 2010, Utah and several other states legislated against the use of these traffic cameras, citing violations to personal privacy. In 2008, there were over 2.3 million intersection-related crashes, resulting in more than 7,770 fatalities and approximately 733,000 injury crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is unclear how many were directly related to running red lights, but certainly further research and new methods are needed.

3. Public Information and Education Programs

One method, supported by the GHSA for reducing speeding, is putting a stop to “speed advertising.” This means that, for car manufacturers and distributors, features such as safety should be advertised rather than speed (cars shouldn’t need to go much faster than standard speed limits).

Other important safety advocacy groups working to improve research and public awareness include:

At Christensen & Hymas, we encourage all motorists to learn about proper auto safety, especially when ensuring that seat belts are worn whenever an automobile is in motion. Make sure that not only your own seat belt is securely fastened each time you enter a car, but the other passengers as well. Being as informed as possible, as well as practicing good judgment, is crucial to your safety.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, we are experts on Utah personal injury law. Call us at 1-(855)-245-6859 for a free initial consultation. Our dedicated lawyers can help fight for your unique cause and provide the information you need to get the money that you deserve.

If you have further questions about personal injury law or wonder if a personal injury lawyer is right for you, you can request a free informative book at utahaccidentbooks.com

Photo courtesy of  Department of Defense

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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