Using Data to Improve Traffic Incident Management
June 01, 2017

The following is an excerpt from a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) fact sheet, posted with permission from the USDOT.

Increasing the amount, consistency and quality of TIM data collection supports development of performance measures for evaluating and improving traffic incident response.

Traffic incidents on U.S. roadways put travelers' and responders' lives at risk and account for about 25 percent of all delays. The resulting congestion can lead to secondary crashes, further increasing safety risks and economic costs. Traffic Incident Management (TIM) programs are lessening the duration and impact of these incidents through planned, coordinated resource use among different first responder agencies.

Building Blocks of Performance Measurement

An ideal TIM program must rely on efficient data collection, analysis, and reporting to measure performance and identify where and when it can be improved. However, performance management through enhanced data collection remains elusive in many jurisdictions that either do not collect TIM data or collect data for a small percentage of traffic incidents.

Through this fourth round of Every Day Counts (EDC-4), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is promoting several low-cost, off-the-shelf technologies, including integrated computer-aided dispatch (CAD), electronic crash reporting, Traffic Management Center software and various smart devices that make data collection simpler. These tools can assist agencies in expanding the amount and quality of data they collect. The data can then be used to recognize trends, institutionalize programs, identify areas for improvement, develop consequence modeling, and inform future planning.

FHWA is also encouraging adoption of three national TIM performance measures — time of lane closure, time responders are on-scene, and number of secondary accidents — that agencies can focus on in data collection and reporting. These three measures will provide a baseline for comparing TIM program assessments across state and regional boundaries.

Using comparable data reporting and metrics will increase transparency in demonstrating program effectiveness to stakeholders. It can also help justify future funding for TIM resources by quantifying its safety and economic benefits. Accelerating this data collection and including it in performance management will help TIM programs realize their full potential for keeping motorists and incident responders safer and roads and highways clear.

Benefits of TIM

Transportation agencies can gain the following benefits from a TIM program:

Increased Transparency. Increasing the amount and quality of data collection allows agencies to demonstrate program effectiveness through quantified safety and economic benefits.

Improved Operations. Collecting key TIM data at incident sites provides agencies with the information and knowledge needed to address when and where improvements can be made.

Better Outcomes. Expanding TIM data collection boosts the measurements needed to improve program performance and resource management, as well as future planning.

State of the Practice

Improved data collection is proving essential to institutionalizing TIM and addressing TIM program strategies. Almost 50 percent of state departments of transportation (DOTs) already employ some form of crash data collection that could be used to institutionalize information sharing within and between partner agencies.

Sixteen states currently use TraCS (Traffic and Criminal Software) or a similar system for electronic crash reporting. Arizona modified its TraCS system easily and at low cost to collect data for the three key TIM performance measures, and Tennessee uses a locally developed electronic crash reporting system that collects data for one of the key performance measures. These and other successes can be built on in expanding the amount and quality of TIM data collection throughout the country.