InTrans / Jun 04, 2021

Data-driven tool can aid in identifying non-motorist crash trends

Screenshot of the non-motorist crash tool interface

Crash reports and other raw data—no matter how accurate—aren’t always helpful in identifying patterns, which makes it difficult to address problem areas. That’s why the Institute for Transportation’s (InTrans’) Real-Time Analytics of Transportation Data (REACTOR) Lab has developed several interactive crash tools that literally show those patterns.

“There’s a place for tables and summary statistics and fact sheets, and things like that, but interactive tools really provide more of an understanding to people. They can get a better feel for it,” said Zach Hans, Director of InTrans’ Center for Weather Impacts on Mobility and Safety, who was involved in the development of one of the interactive tools that focuses on non-motorist crashes.

Hans said the benefits of the non-motorist crash tool are to help local agencies identify their individual problem areas more accurately and thus to tackle them.

It provides data on crashes across Iowa from 2016 to 2021. All charts are interactive, and making a selection within a chart will filter all other charts for the selected criteria. Users can toggle between a summary and seven other tabs with location or condition-specific data to see how their selections impact other performance measures.

The tool is accessible here. Hans also talks about the tool in this two-minute video here.

“People can drill down, because each community may be different, each community may have different issues or different age groups that they want to target, and so this tool provides that ability,” Hans said.

The development of the tool was sponsored by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB). The agency was interested in the tool, because it helps the agency to identify communities to contract with to address their local pedestrian safety challenges. The tool shows that pedestrian fatalities are not decreasing, and in many cases are on the rise.

Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in the US in 2018, which accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities in that year.

“Non-motorists are vulnerable users of the roadway, and an injury crash could easily be a fatal crash when you’re a bicyclist or pedestrian being struck by a car,” Hans said.

However, the tool doesn’t only identify fatal crashes. It also conveys the frequency of non-fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes, which can be surprising to some agencies.

“So, the tool really helps local agencies target what their enforcement or educational efforts should be,” Hans added.