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A Data-Driven Approach to Vision Zero

June 28, 2023

Image Caption: A Data-driven Approach to Vision Zero

As the 4th of July holiday weekend approaches, many Americans are gearing up for a much-needed break. According to AAA, an all-time record of more than 50 million people will travel more than 50 miles to their destination, thanks in part to gas prices that are considerably lower than this time last year. 

As we hit the road, it’s important to remember another statistic: in 2022, 42,795 people lost their lives in crashes on American roads. The previous year, 42,939 people died on our roads. Despite all the traffic safety work, we only managed to decrease fatalities by 0.3%.

In the transportation community, we must recommit to lowering that number, and that means actively taking steps to do things differently. Tragedy should never become routine, yet the annual reporting of how many people died on American roads rolls out like just another transportation statistic. As a society, we’ve become almost immune to crash statistics. Road tragedies are not something that just happens to other people - they can happen to anyone.

The status quo of relying on crash data to assess safety is no longer sufficient. To truly transform the way we measure and improve roadway safety, we must tap into the power of connected vehicle data. By utilizing this resource, transportation agencies can effectively and affordably identify safety risks and address potential issues before they escalate into fatalities. 

The push for Vision Zero gives us hope that we can reverse the trend. The industry expected a reversal of the pandemic numbers that vaulted into the 40,000 range, but that hasn’t happened yet.

However, at Flow Labs, we say yet because we see a path to Vision Zero. It’s not a Yellow Brick Road kind of path, but genuine solutions that can almost immediately reduce crash deaths using infrastructure and data that already exist. 

It All Comes Down To Data

Data acquisition and application are our sweet spot, and we’ve seen its power firsthand. The simple fact is that data around crashes, dangerous driving, poor signal timing, incident frequency, and particularly connected vehicle data that provides enormous insight into all of these problems, is being left on the table. 

Without data, agencies are forced to drive with one hand over their eyes. The current reliance on crash data to measure roadway safety alone is inadequate and reactive. It only provides information after an incident has occurred, leaving agencies blind to the ongoing risks on the road.

By integrating connected vehicle data into our approach to measuring and improving roadway safety, we can address the root causes of crashes and fatalities more effectively. This data provides an extremely valuable understanding of risk-taking driver behaviors, allowing transportation agencies to proactively identify and address safety risks before they escalate.

What should you be measuring?

The key leading indicators of crashes have been well-known and well-researched for decades, bringing a clear understanding of some of the key leading indicators of crashes:

  • Speeding: High vehicle speeds, high speeds relative to speed limits, high-speed variance, high speeds relative to average speeds.
  • Red Light Running (RLR) Crash Types: Violations that happen in the first few seconds of red are more prone to left-turn opposed crashes, whilst later violations are more prone to right angle crashes. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Dilemma Zone Entry (DZE): Dilemma Zone Entry rates of greater than 1.07% (Source: Flow Labs) 

    Hard Braking: Braking greater than 0.3g or 9.65ft/s2 (Source:
    NHTSA (2019)

    Aggressive Acceleration: Acceleration greater than 0.3g or 9.65ft/s2 (Source:
    NHTSA (2019)

    Turning Movement Speed: Turning movement speed of greater than 3ft/s (Source:
    NHTSA (2019)

This data, which is often overlooked and underutilized, holds the key to unlocking substantial improvements in roadway safety. At Flow Labs, we measure all of these on a regional/system, network/corridor, intersection/signal, and phase/movement level–and we can measure them today, using the hardware your agency already has.

Measure Safety Instantly with Abacus

As shown below, our platform delivers a comprehensive suite of metrics and visualizations, enabling engineers to gain deep insights into vehicular trends. By harnessing this wealth of information, agencies can effortlessly explore the full range of vehicle behaviors, moving beyond basic averages to make informed decisions and implement targeted interventions that prevent crashes.

Moreover, connected vehicle data enables a more cost-effective approach to enhancing safety. Instead of relying solely on expensive and time-consuming measures like road redesign or infrastructure upgrades, agencies can leverage existing data and infrastructure to identify and address safety risks. 

Proactive Monitoring with Cerberus

Our proactive monitoring tool uses advanced scanning capabilities to identify safety issues in all of your roadways and intersections, calculating the severity and actionability of the issue. Using sorting and filtering functions, you can quickly prioritize the most problematic areas and devote your resources where it matters most. This not only saves resources but also allows for quicker implementation of preventive measures.

Ultimately, by embracing the power of connected vehicle data, we can pave the way to Vision Zero—a future where no traffic fatalities or serious injuries occur. It offers a tangible and achievable path forward, driven by evidence-based decision-making and proactive interventions.

Let us not settle for the status quo but strive for a data-driven revolution offering safety benefits for all, so that we can celebrate the July 4th weekend without having to discuss crashes and fatalities. 

If you want to see how your agency can use connected vehicle data to gather safety insights faster, get in touch with us at contact@flowlabs.ai.

Flow Labs technologies like Predictive Traffic Control (PTC) enable you to spend less, deploy faster and see results quicker. Contact us to schedule a demo today.

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