Preventing Car Crashes with Big Data Analysis

Published Feb-04-19

The development of predictive crash software to help drivers stay safe on the road.

US State of Tennesse, United States

The Story:

Preventing Car Crashes with Big Data Analysis The figures are truly staggering. According to research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes and road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among those aged between 5 and 29 years. The biggest cause of accidents is the human element. The three main human failures are speeding, alcohol and distractions. In addition to the social cost, road traffic crashes also cost most countries around 3% of their gross domestic product.

Consequently, road safety is a top priority in many places with governments, local authorities and private companies investing in technologies that can help reduce accidents and improve overall driver safety. One of those technologies is big data, and it’s already generating positive results and saving lives.

Car Crash Prediction

In 2013, the US state of Tennessee launched a statewide car crash prediction program that digs deep into the data. The system's software brings together every crash report in the state as well as weather conditions, traffic enforcement citations and information about special events. It produces a map that shows the likelihood of a vehicle crash or fatality within 6-by-7-mile areas in four-hour increments daily.

These maps are made available to troopers on the computers in their cars which informs them of areas where they may need to patrol or set up safety checkpoints. The benefits of this big data initiative were soon apparent. Between 2012 and 2016 crash response times fell from 37 minutes to 25 minutes. That was a drop of 33 percent. The number of fatalities between 2013 and 2015 fell 3 percent although there was an 8 percent spike in 2016. This increase could’ve been due to several factors such as more cars on the road.

“It’s not the silver bullet that is going to solve every problem on traffic safety,” said Patrick Dolan, Manager, Statistics Office for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “But it’s another tool, an effective one, to give our people an idea of where they need to be and what they need to be working on to help prevent some of these crashes or at least be there quicker.”

Big Data Initiatives

Big data is helping to improve road safety in a variety of other ways. For example, companies are creating innovative programs that provide safety alerts to drivers to let them know ahead of time when to slow down because of dangerous road situations ahead. The European Union launched a program called Gear 2030 which among other things is focused on boosting automated driving and connected vehicles. And smart cars are getting smarter, using a multitude of sensors to steer cars away from obstacles.

Although big data is not a panacea, it can do a lot to make vehicles safer, reduce or eliminate risks and prevent serious injuries and even death.

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