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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Safety Data Collection, Analysis, and Sharing

The Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) provides a data-driven framework for highway safety stakeholders to identify key safety needs, guide investment decisions, and align and leverage collective resources. The purpose of a data-driven process is to direct resources to projects and programs with the greatest potential for reducing fatalities and serious injuries. The strength of the SHSP and other safety plans lies in a state’s ability to collect, analyze, and share safety data as appropriate.

A variety of strategies can be employed to collect quality data, perform analysis, and ensure safety stakeholders can access the data and the analysis. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) section 408 grants provide funding to improve timeliness, accuracy, uniformity, completeness, integration, and accessibility of safety data. Projects to improve data collection and analysis may also be eligible for Federal HSIP funding. In some states, multiple agencies provide funding for data collection and management through interagency agreements.

Data are analyzed to identify and prioritize safety problems, establish goals and objectives, select strategies and countermeasures, and develop action plans. They are also analyzed to monitor and evaluate results, and provide feedback into the planning process. Analysis can involve simple statistical investigations of crash trends, types, and contributing factors, or sophisticated tools such as SafetyAnalyst and the Highway Safety Manual.

In many cases, safety data are unavailable or unknown. Information in police crash reports may vary among localities. Medical records, insurance records, and licensing information may not be available or linked to the crash data; and roadway inventory information may be limited and difficult to link to the crash data system. These and other data quality problems inhibit the effectiveness of efforts to improve transportation safety. However, access to timely and accurate safety data is critical for successful SHSP implementation.

A variety of programs and departments receive safety data from the state agency or department maintaining the data. Local governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), advocacy groups, and private consultants generally request crash data to conduct various planning activities and projects. The agency maintaining the data may provide raw or filtered datasets that can be readily used by local agencies. Access to reliable data for all stakeholders enables them to more effectively address safety in their transportation and safety plans, and helps foster collaboration among stakeholders.

Noteworthy Practices

The following cases demonstrate noteworthy practices several states are using to share SHSP data with stakeholders:

  • The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (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. The LEE works statewide and reviews crash reports to identify and resolve potential issues with crash report completion in the various jurisdictions. Louisiana’s crash data accuracy and completeness has improved through the use of the LEE and has led to better informed decision-making in the State’s efforts to improve safety. The LEE is also involved with SHSP implementation and helps keep regional teams focused on the data driven approach for focusing on the emphasis areas and potential countermeasures and strategies. (read more)
  • The Minnesota DOT (MnDOT) recently embarked on a statewide initiative to create a roadway safety plan for each of the State’s 87 counties. These plans build on the foundation established by Minnesota’s SHSP, but utilize a data analysis approach geared toward identifying a specific set of safety projects directly linked to the causation factors associated with the most severe crashes on each county’s highway system. The data driven process established for county safety plans has helped position counties to more effectively compete for safety funds and make improvements on local roadways with greater potential to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes. (read more)
  • The New Jersey DOT (NJDOT) contracted with the Rutgers University Transportation Safety Resource Center (TSRC) to develop a roadway safety decision support tool for safety stakeholders. The web-based software tool supporting collection, analysis, and distribution of transportation safety data has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the SHSP. The approximately 500 agencies using the analysis software enjoy easy access to transportation safety data and can perform analyses to support their local safety initiatives as well as those at the state level. (read more)

To access these full case studies, click on the individual links above or visit the FHWA Office of Safety on-line at: