Data-Driven Traffic Enforcement Saves Lives. NYPD Only Halfway There.

With good data and targeted traffic enforcement, police departments around the country are saving lives. The Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety policing system, or DDACTS, run by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, is reducing crashes by putting officers where they need to be to address the traffic violations most likely to lead to injury and death.

Though the NYPD recently reinstated a program to focus traffic enforcement on hot spots for crashes, DDACTS includes a component that street safety advocates say is still missing here in New York: focusing on the most dangerous types of traffic crime. 

Through DDACTS, the feds provide technical assistance to local police departments about how to reduce both traffic crashes and overall crime. After using geospatial data to identify "hot-spots" prone to both traffic crashes and criminal activity, the police then focus enforcement in those areas, particularly by enforcing traffic laws.

The Metro Nashville Police Department, for example, identified impaired
driving as a leading cause of crashes at local hot-spots. By focusing
enforcement on that issue in those locations — the number of arrests
for impaired driving increased from 3,242 to 5,995 per year — the number
of fatal crashes annually decreased from 77 to 67.

"If you have an area that has a high incidence of alcohol-involved crashes," said Earl Hardy of NHTSA’s Enforcement and Justice Services Divison, "you need to address alcohol enforcement. The same with speeding or any other causative factor." 

The results have been impressive, according to Hardy, with double-digit declines in the rates of traffic crashes, injury-causing crashes, and crime in targeted areas. "We’re used to seeing some declines," said Hardy, "but this is like putting it on steroids." Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave the program a big shout-out on his blog last month.

NYPD recently took a big step toward this approach to saving lives by restoring the technique known as accident-prone location deployment. This protocol, which had first been implemented in the 1990s, assigns traffic safety officers to the streets and intersections with the highest rates of overall crashes and fatal crashes. (According to the Transportation Alternatives report Executive Order, when the technique was first applied, an intersection received one point for each crash, two points for a crash with an injury, and three points for a fatal crash; the police added up the points and deployed their officers accordingly.)

Accident-prone location deployment had disappeared by the end of the tenure of NYPD Chief of Transportation Michael Scagnelli, according to T.A.’s Jessie Singer. After James Tuller replaced him in June 2009, however, accident-prone location deployment was reinstated. 

So far, the NYPD hasn’t taken up the other half of the DDACTS formula, which would mean training officers’ eyes on the most dangerous violations.

"We’re glad to see the NYPD recognizes that targeting crash-prone locations can save lives," said T.A. executive director Paul Steely White. "This is major progress, and we applaud their decision to do so. But the other missing piece is to give similar attention to crash-prone violations." For example, Executive Order reported that while speeding was a factor in more than 39 times as many crashes as using a cell phone behind the wheel, the department issued less than half as many speeding summonses as cell phone summonses.

The lesson of DDACTS is that sustained and accurately-targeted enforcement of the causes of traffic crashes saves lives. In New York, police are focusing enforcement in the right places, but missing the mark when it comes to the deadliest traffic violations. NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

  • JK

    I am skeptical that the NYPD will ever enforce speeding on NYC streets.(Ray Kelly or otherwise.) The manpower cost and safety concerns are big obstacles. (We need cameras.) But the near absence of speed enforcement could be tolerated if other moving violation enforcement and sanctions are toughened. Indeed, it’s not apparent that dedicated speeding enforcement results in safer streets than cell phone enforcement. Research suggests the volume of enforcement, and application of penalties may matter as much as the type of enforcement. TA’s recent traffic safety study highlights research which found that among the large sample of Ontario drivers involved in fatal crashes over more than a decade, ANY KIND OF MOVING VIOLATION SUMMONS lowered the driver’s chance of a fatal crash in the month following the ticket by 35 percent. The study also found that a conviction for a serious traffic violation and points on the offender’s license reduced the driver’s fatal crash risk in the month following the ticket by 50 percent. Either way, the NYPD should be a leader in researching effects of various types of enforcement on crashes and injuries. There are plenty of academics from across the country who would be delighted to collaborate on traffic safety research in glamorous NYC.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Bloomberg Opens Up More Crime Data, So Why Not Traffic Safety Info Too?

|
Bloomberg administration officials have now twice appeared in front of the City Council to oppose legislation requiring that the city post up-to-date information about traffic crashes and summonses online. In April, the NYPD testified that such a reporting requirement would be a burden on the department and that the public couldn’t interpret that kind of […]

DOT Launches Speed Limit PSAs; NYPD to Target Speeding, Failure-to-Yield

|
NYC DOT and NYPD jointly announced some new street safety initiatives today. Harking back to the release this summer of DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, Janette Sadik-Khan and Ray Kelly came out with plans to increase awareness about the dangers of speeding and to target more police enforcement on speeding and failure-to-yield violations. […]

Bill Bratton Will Be the Police Chief Tasked With Implementing Vision Zero

|
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has selected Bill Bratton to serve as New York City’s next police commissioner. Bratton occupied the same post from 1994 to 1996 under the Giuliani administration and is credited with pioneering data-driven policing techniques. After Bratton left, one of the innovations his deputies introduced was TrafficStat, a system that tracked crash […]

Citizens Hammer NYPD Commissioner Kelly on Street Safety

|
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at Baruch College last week The following report was submitted by Carol Wood, a Murray Hill resident, along with Emilia Crotty, Bicycle Education Program Associate for Bike New York. Both are members of the NYC Bicycling Coalition. Last Thursday evening, March 20, nearly 200 East Siders turned out for a "Town […]

Racial Inequity in Traffic Enforcement

|
With the Vision Zero Cities Conference kicking off tomorrow, Transportation Alternatives has released an accompanying collection of essays, the first edition of “The International Journal of Traffic Safety Innovation.” Streetsblog is pleased to republish TA Legislative and Legal Manager Marco Conner’s contribution to the journal. The whole collection is worth your time, and you can […]