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28 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS The most successful examples of crash records systems Budgeting for the entire life cycle of the system--Suc- reported here were those developed in an environment of cessful crash records systems have often been reported multidisciplinary and multijurisdiction coordination, com- to cost millions of dollars to develop and maintain. munication, and cooperation. The lessons learned from these Although it is rarely possible to plan for all contingen- examples of successful systems are simple, but worth repeat- cies, it is critical to incorporate a sensible life cycle and ing in the context of improved practices for crash data col- financial commitment into all phases of the system plan- lection, crash data management, and data linkages for report- ning life cycle. ing and analysis. Several items are suggested. Data-for-data partnerships--Data collected for any of the components of a traffic records system are needed by An established state traffic records coordinating com- a diverse set of users, agencies, and jurisdictions. Those mittee--This is a committee charged by the executives agencies that bear the greatest costs for data collection of stakeholder agencies throughout the state, ideally may not be the ones that benefit most from their staffed by the office of highway safety, whose members use. There may be little incentive for a municipal law are drawn from every facet of the traffic safety commu- enforcement agency to invest in collecting complete, nity. The committee's strategic mission includes coordi- accurate, and timely crash data, for example, if scarce nation, communication, and interagency cooperation on local resources must be assigned to combat crime. How- ever, it is often the case that there are resources at state improvements to any component of the traffic records agencies that would benefit local agencies. The most system. This committee can serve as a forum for com- successful crash records systems provide some form of municating plans and needs among the agencies respon- sharing data, software, and/or hardware resources to sible for the crash, roadway, driver, vehicle, emergency local jurisdictions in exchange for improved data col- medical service/trauma, law enforcement, and court rec- lection for their systems. Examples of incentives have ords systems. Data collectors, system managers, infor- included access to detailed department of transporta- mation technology staff, safety analysts, and program tion mapping software, free crash data collection tools, staff from all the stakeholders can learn to work within and distribution of global positioning system readers to the much broader context of a comprehensive traffic obtain locations that are more accurate. In many respects, records system framework. public agencies are the customers of other public agen- A strategic plan for traffic records improvements--The cies. In serving one another with better access and strategic planning efforts will arise with a meaningful resources, everyone benefits. process that begins with custodial agency buy-in to A knowledge base for traffic records systems--Suc- ensure that the plan will serve as a blue print for change. cessful crash records systems have embraced the con- As part of the strategic plan, a detailed implementation cept of a knowledge base to serve the highway and traf- or action plan guidelines provides specific actions and fic safety community. Whether as a data clearinghouse assigns responsibility for completing those actions, out- or as a staff specifically assigned to conduct ad hoc link- lines the completion schedules, and lists the antecedent ages, having trained resources for data access affords an tasks so that schedule slippage can be anticipated and improved coordination and communication between accommodated. users and the collectors and managers of the data. The A strategic plan that is flexible and keeps in mind the expertise developed for this knowledge base becomes a broader objectives of collecting high-quality data in a resource for every stakeholder and gains support for timely fashion and making those data accessible for more traffic records system improvements. analysis and reporting has been noted to be desirable. Simplified crash data collection--The most successful Examples of successful crash records systems have come crash records systems have resulted from efforts to sim- from committees and agencies that keep in mind the plify field data collection. Examples of such efforts have strategic missions and, as a result, do not end up with a included providing software and hardware tools for data crash records system that is technically sound, but does collection, training and support, linkages to other data not meet the needs of the highway and traffic safety sources to reduce the number of data elements collected, community. and the use of non-sworn officers for crash investigation.

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29 Based on these observations, the following are suggested Successful crash records systems have most often been for future considerations: managed within the context of a strategic plan. Strategic plans should be flexible and should incorporate a detailed Coordination, communication, and cooperation are keys implementation plan, including action item lists and task to successful development of crash records systems. assignments. Buy-in from all traffic records system cus- States and the federal government have long recognized todial agencies is critical, as is a commitment to sharing the importance of a forum at the state level to bring data and resources among the collectors and managers of together the diverse stakeholders and foster an aware- the data. The entire highway and traffic safety community ness of the needs of data collectors, managers, and benefits from improvements in data quality and availabil- users. With the large amounts money involved, and ity. Only by working together and committing shared the potential for failure even in the best-designed sys- resources will it be possible to justify the necessary tems, the traffic records community has developed an spending. Establishing a knowledge base is one way to awareness of the need for long-term planning and life- ensure that high-quality data for use in decision making cycle budgeting. is available to the highway and traffic safety community.