Data for safer roads: 3 takeaways from Arity’s panel at ITS America 2023

How can public agencies better use data to uncover the actionable insights needed to achieve Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is a bold goal to end all traffic fatalities and severe injuries on our roads. When Arity joined other leaders in the intelligent transportation community in April, there was a collective urgency to safeguard our roads.

However, with more than 46,000 lives lost to traffic crashes in 2022, it’s clear we’re missing something very important in our cities’ safety strategies.

Arity’s Sandi Dunmyer and Anthony Johnson took the stage at ITS America 2023 to delve into what’s missing. They were joined by Erik Dietz (Michelin Mobility Intelligence), John Hansen (Olsson), and Dr. Sisinnio Concas (Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida). Here are their takeaways.

Data for good: Why do public agencies need data for their safety strategies?

You don’t know what you don’t know, and guessing isn’t good enough when it comes to people’s lives. We need data-driven decisions to make the most impact.

With the right data, public agencies can start to piece together an accurate picture of road risk, creating the actionable insights needed to reach Vision Zero.

John provided a real-word example of this that he sees in his role at Olsson, an engineering and design firm focused on improving communities. Half of the fatalities on our highways occur in rural areas, but the average response time to an accident on those roads is greater than an hour – which, in some cases, can be the difference in saving someone’s life.

John envisions an opportunity where given the right information and criteria, we can predict when, where, and in what situations an accident is more likely to occur. One use case of that is to help first responders better serve those areas. However, there are many ways these insights, among others, can be used to improve road safety for all.

Data sources: What types of data are available today for road safety?

Now more than ever, agencies have the potential to access a wide range of data sources. But right now, they are still relying heavily on police reports which isn’t the most timely or accurate source.

Sisinnio pointed out that it takes a certain amount of time to process long-form police reports for accuracy, and it leaves room for human error. For example, a crash could be reported in an inaccurate location, like if a police officer reported the location of the parking lot the cars pulled into after the accident versus the actual location of the accident.

Reports are a more “traditional” data source in the public sector, and while they hold a lot of valuable information, there are now real-time sources available, including roadside devices, connected cars, and mobile phones. And each of our panelists unanimously agreed that fresh, near real-time data is going to make a huge impact on transportation, giving us the power to reach Vision Zero even faster.

More recent and frequently delivered data sources empower public agencies to be proactive versus reactive in their safety strategies. When cities rely solely on reports, multiple traffic accidents have to occur before any trend or pattern is spotted. And at that point, the property damage, bodily injury, or even an uptick in fatalities has already occurred.

With more recent, accurate driving events data, agencies can spot trends and patterns and take action before accidents happen.

For example, with connected car and mobile phone data, Arity and Michelin Mobility Intelligence capture information on crashes (including unreported ones) and “near miss” events, along with what happened 60 seconds prior and 90 seconds after. With that data, agencies can know:

  • What driving behaviors were occurring right before, like speeding, phone handling, and hard braking
  • The context, such as if there was an extreme weather event at the time
  • The reaction, such as if the driver pulled over or kept driving

These insights are key to being proactive, especially when measured for “near miss” incidents. That way, agencies can determine their city’s risky areas and implement solutions before an accident ever happens.

Data fusion: How can public agencies get the full picture of road risk?

“One of the greatest benefits of Michelin working with Arity is we don’t have the same types of blind spots when you look at rural areas, especially very remote areas. We look at all roads.”

Each data source brings its own unique value to safety planning, but every source also has a bias. Because of this, it’s essential to fuse and layer different data sources to gain more accurate, equitable insights.

For instance, Erik said Michelin Mobility Intelligence is invested in extracting bias. So, while the connected-car data is incredibly valuable, it’s not necessarily equitable alone because:

  •  The average age of passenger cars in operation is over 12 years, and
  • Connected cars are much more concentrated in U.S. metro areas versus rural areas.

Their solution is to combine that connected-car data with mobile phone data which is representative across the entire U.S. population, rather than a specific portion that’s able to afford to purchase a newer vehicle.

The next step: Accelerating Vision Zero

It’s evident we’ve been missing something very important in our cities’ safety strategies. However, with the right data sources and data fusion, agencies can gain actionable insights that save thousands of lives.

Ready to learn more? Contact us to discuss how broad-scale data can better support your city’s safety initiatives today.

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Arity is a mobility data and analytics company. We provide data-driven solutions to companies invested in transportation, enabling them to deliver mobility services that are smarter, safer, and more economical.