NHTSA report calls for more efficient collection of traffic, accident data

| 8/6/2004

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a report that suggests ways to improve collection of data on accidents and other traffic safety issues.

The new report is titled “Initiatives to Address Improving Traffic Safety Data.” Its authors say it is designed to present “an in-depth look at routinely collected and accessible traffic safety data and provides initiatives and recommendations for federal and state stakeholders to improve traffic safety data needed to reduce deaths, injuries, injury severity and costs.”

One of the report’s suggestions is that officers should electronically transmit data from accidents in “real time,” meaning at the time of the investigation, rather than afterward when formal, written reports are filed.

That immediate transfer, the report says, could be used to provide “local and state-level decision makers with current information to justify, for example, revoking a license at the scene of a crash.”

“Currently, few jurisdictions have the capability to access or update driver licensing or vehicle registration data from the scene of a traffic event,” the report’s authors wrote.

Other advantages for law-enforcement and emergency officials include the ability to send information about crash victims to emergency rooms to aid in the treatment of people who are injured in a collision.

The report specifically calls for switching many local and state agencies that are now using paper records to electronic systems, and allowing the information from those systems to be shared nationwide.

Other efforts in the past few years that involved widespread sharing of driver information – linked to law-enforcement and homeland security concerns – have met with stiff opposition and little success in recent years. Those included a multistate program called Matrix and the federal government’s Total Information Awareness program.

Matrix was a cooperative effort involving a number of states that would have combined a huge amount of information on every person who holds a driver’s license. Eventually, several states pulled out of the system, primarily because of privacy concerns.

Total Information Awareness was a similar system that was proposed at the federal level. First discussed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it was designed to integrate a large number and wide variety of information sources on individual American citizens so they could be sifted by software to detect patterns of activity that could predict whether that individual might be involved in terrorist activity. The House of Representatives sided with critics who cited privacy concerns and put an end to TIA.

The docket number for the new NHTSA report, “Initiatives to Address Improving Traffic Safety Data,” is NHTSA-2004-17339. Truckers can read the report on the Web at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/Crash/crashstatistics/TrafficSafetyData_IPT_Report.htm.

Written comments may be submitted to:

Docket Management System
U.S. Department of Transportation, PL 401
400 Seventh St. SW,
Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Comments may also be submitted online at http://dms.dot.gov/.