An interactive public database built by transportation engineers and information technology experts at the University of Connecticut (UConn) that provides unprecedented levels of detail for thousands of motor vehicle crashes across the state is drawing the attention of other agencies interested in replicating the model.
More than six years in the making, the Connecticut Crash Data Repository is becoming an essential tool for transportation safety engineers, regional planning agencies, police departments, and town leaders seeking to improve safety on Connecticut’s highways and roads. Interest in the online database extends far beyond the state, with officials in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and South Carolina contacting UConn transportation safety engineers in recent months, inquiring about the database and how they might duplicate the system in their state.
The team at UConn’s Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center (CTSRC) began building the repository in 2011 in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) Highway Safety Office and the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
UConn staff spent over a year inputting details from thousands of paper-based state crash reports to create the database. Data collection dramatically improved with the implementation of a new state system that allows police departments to file digital versions of their crash reports.
Ultimately, the UConn team hopes to improve the database and data integration to the point where it meets all the guidelines currently recommended by the federal government. If successful, Connecticut would be the first state in the country to meet that high standard. As part of that goal, the UConn team are working with Connecticut’s Judicial Branch and departments of public health, motor vehicles, and CDOT to obtain more transportation safety data, including toxicology reports, injury and treatment information from hospitals, and citation and adjudication information, as well as records involving driver and vehicle history.
“These data visualization tools are becoming a national trend,” explained CTSRC director Eric Jackson. “Connecticut’s database is highly interactive, accessible to the public, and allows for rapid, real-time analysis of data to identify trouble spots and trends. The homepage includes a daily ‘ticker’ comparing Connecticut traffic fatalities this year to other years.
“System information is updated daily. With our database, members of the public can find very detailed information about crashes with very little effort. That’s what we were going for, a very user-friendly Google-esque application, where you don’t need to be a data expert to use it.”