The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) is responsible for collecting motor vehicle crash data for the entire State of Louisiana, as well as maintaining the state crash database. This equates to about 165,000 crash reports a year from state, parish, and local law enforcement agencies. The accuracy and timeliness of this data are critical in prioritizing safety improvements for roadways and intersections. LDOTD has the responsibility to ensure prioritization of limited highway safety funds is based on the ability to reduce the most crashes, injuries, and fatalities relative to the initial construction cost and any associated increase in maintenance costs. LDOTD analyzes the entire state roadway system on a yearly basis and compiles a list of locations exceeding a threshold for crashes, injuries, and fatalities to allocate highway safety funds where the greatest safety benefit can be achieved.
LDOTD found incorrect and incomplete coding of the crash reports by law enforcement officers affected the quality and accuracy of the crash data. In addition, the Legislature designated LDOTD as the agency responsible for implementing and coordinating a Statewide Incident Management Program, which requires widespread statewide coordination between LDOTD, law enforcement agencies, and emergency response personnel. In 2008, the agency hired a Law Enforcement Expert (LEE) to help address data deficiencies and meet the new Legislative requirement. Given the responsibilities of the position and because the LEE would reach out to a wide variety of law enforcement officers, a decision was made to hire a person with significant leadership experience with the state police, i.e., a Captain or above.
The LEE works statewide and reviews crash reports to identify trends or potential issues with crash report completion by the various jurisdictions. For example, the LEE might identify a disproportionately high number of crashes with the contributing factor marked as “failure to control” within a particular agency. When this type of situation arises, the LEE meets with the agency to identify any underlying reasons for the trend in reporting (e.g., training, edit checks, etc.). If there are issues, the LEE helps train the officers on proper procedures. Additional LEE responsibilities directly related to improving the quality and accuracy of crash data include:
- Develop a student and train-the-trainer course in crash investigation to familiarize law enforcement personnel with the concepts and techniques of crash reconstruction.
- Schedule classes and train law enforcement academy instructors in crash investigation and reconstruction concepts and techniques (train-the-trainer course).
- Schedule classes and train students in crash investigation and in reconstruction concepts and techniques.
- Provide crash investigation and reconstruction services to the Highway Safety Section for the LDOTD Tort Reduction Program.
- Provide crash investigation and reconstruction expertise to the nine LDOTD Districts during their investigation of crash locations.
- Serve as a member on the statewide Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (TRCC) and the Sub-committee responsible for revising the State crash report to adhere to required Model Uniform Crash Criteria (MUCC).
The LEE also assists with Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) implementation at both the local and regional level. Working with LDOTD and Louisiana State University, the LEE provides the SHSP regional coalitions with the data they need to develop and implement regional action plans, strategies, and performance measures.
- LDOTD is among the first DOTs to hire a Law Enforcement Expert (LEE) dedicated to working with law enforcement agencies on improving crash data collection.
- Instituted a direct link between LDOTD (both headquarters and District offices) and law enforcement agencies around the State.
- Utilizing a former law enforcement officer has facilitated communication and outreach to local law enforcement agencies.
Louisiana’s crash data accuracy and completeness have been enhanced through the use of the LEE, which has led to better informed decision-making in the State’s efforts to improve safety. Training law enforcement agencies has greatly improved location data through better application of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. Educating local law enforcement officers on the electronic crash report form and increasing their awareness and understanding of the importance of accurate, complete data has resulted in more regular reporting of data elements previously often omitted, such as the manner of collision. Outreach to local law enforcement has also raised awareness of the availability of data from the state to guide local crash reduction programs.
Highway Safety Manager
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development