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6 Of primary concern in this synthesis is the crash records system. However, the utility of crash data to identify safety problems or to evaluate the effect of changes in highway and traffic safety is limited by its ability to be used with other types of data. These other data sources include, at a mini- mum, driver and vehicle records, traffic and roadway condi- tion inventories, and medical outcome data. This synthesis addresses the ability to link crash data with these other traf- FIGURE 1 Plateau of U.S. fatality rates. (Bars show the fic records system components. frequency of fatalities, the line shows the fatality rate.) Chapter two of this report presents background informa- are being achieved. All levels of government use these data tion and a review of the pertinent literature for crash report- to determine how to allocate their scarce resources to address ing and processing. The review helps to define the character- traffic safety issues. istics of a good crash records system for use as a benchmark when identifying successful systems. By applying technological advances and overcoming insti- tutional issues, crash record systems can be improved signifi- Because crash records systems are in transition, many cur- cantly. In addition, there is an initiative by NHTSA, in col- rent projects that would be of interest to practitioners have laboration with FHWA and the Governor's Highway Safety yet to be documented in published reports or studies. A brief Association, which resulted in the Model Minimum Uniform survey was conducted among agencies involved in crash Crash Criteria (MMUCC). Many states are making changes in reporting and processing to get the most up-to-date informa- their uniform crash reports based on the MMUCC guidelines. tion on practices and plans. The survey scope and methodol- ogy are described later in this chapter and chapter three doc- uments the results. SYNTHESIS OBJECTIVES This synthesis provides information on current practices in Chapter four combines the literature review and survey crash reporting and processing, as applied to highway and results and highlights the most successful practices that were traffic safety. To help identify the current practices in crash identified. The following topics are addressed: reporting and processing, surveys were sent to state trans- portation agencies and follow-up interviews were conducted Crash data collection, with selected agencies. The discussions focused on the fol- Crash processing and management, and lowing issues: Data linkages for reporting and analysis. Who is responsible for administering crash data and how is it collected? Chapter five takes the form of lessons learned in review- Who is responsible for maintaining the crash databases? ing the current practices in crash records systems. These How are data quality (e.g., timeliness, accuracy, com- lessons support future expansion of the use and capabilities pleteness, and uniformity) ensured? of crash records systems. How are crash data integrated and linked to other data- bases? How are crash data made accessible to users? SURVEY SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY What barriers exist to the above activities? A survey instrument was designed to gather basic information ORGANIZATION OF SYNTHESIS about current practices in crash records systems (see Appen- dix A). The survey consisted of 13 questions intended to elicit Identification of information for inclusion in this synthesis responses describing how each state collects, manages, and began with various types of literature identified by the TRB uses crash information. This survey provided an initial screen- Transportation Research Information System (TRIS) data- ing of agencies to identify potential crash records systems and base, copies of recent traffic records assessments provided by procedures for further study. The survey asked about time- NHTSA, and the safety data library maintained at Data Nexus, liness, completeness, and perceived accuracy of the informa- Inc. Following the review of the existing literature, a screen- tion, as well as how the crash data are used. The overall costs ing survey was distributed to all of the states to help identify to the state of developing and maintaining the crash records examples of successful practices in crash records systems. systems were also explored. The survey asked respondents to More than half of the state departments of transportation describe desired improvements to their current system and to (DOTs) (26) responded to this survey and many were con- identify any other crash records systems they considered to be tacted for additional information. successfully implemented.