White House, Transportation Dept. want help using open data to prevent traffic crashes

Samantha Ehlinger in FedScoop: “The Transportation Department is looking for public input on how to better interpret and use data on fatal crashes after 2015 data revealed a startling spike of 7.2 percent more deaths in traffic accidents that year.

Looking for new solutions that could prevent more deaths on the roads, the department released three months earlier than usual the 2015 open dataset about each fatal crash. With it, the department and the White House announced a call to action for people to use the data set as a jumping off point for a dialogue on how to prevent crashes, as well as understand what might be causing the spike.

“What we’re ultimately looking for is getting more people engaged in the data … matching this with other publicly available data, or data that the private sector might be willing to make available, to dive in and to tell these stories,” said Bryan Thomas, communications director for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to FedScoop.

One striking statistic was that “pedestrian and pedalcyclist fatalities increased to a level not seen in 20 years,” according to a DOT press release. …

“We want folks to be engaged directly with our own data scientists, so we can help people through the dataset and help answer their questions as they work their way through, bounce ideas off of us, etc.,” Thomas said. “We really want to be accessible in that way.”

He added that as ideas “come to fruition,” there will be opportunities to present what people have learned.

“It’s a very, very rich data set, there’s a lot of information there,” Thomas said. “Our own ability is, frankly, limited to investigate all of the questions that you might have of it. And so we want to get the public really diving in as well.”…

Here are the questions “worth exploring,” according to the call to action:

  • How might improving economic conditions around the country change how Americans are getting around? What models can we develop to identify communities that might be at a higher risk for fatal crashes?
  • How might climate change increase the risk of fatal crashes in a community?
  • How might we use studies of attitudes toward speeding, distracted driving, and seat belt use to better target marketing and behavioral change campaigns?
  • How might we monitor public health indicators and behavior risk indicators to target communities that might have a high prevalence of behaviors linked with fatal crashes (drinking, drug use/addiction, etc.)? What countermeasures should we create to address these issues?”…(More)”