Deaths and injuries are a major cost in transportation. Transportation fatalities rank third as the cause of lost years of life in the U.S. (behind heart disease and cancer). Several travel modes have death counts whose impact exceeds that of AIDS. But the Department of Transportation has not yet responded to this public health threat by developing data programs as capable as those used in the federal medical community.
This plan aims to improve the quality of safety data programs throughout the Department of Transportation. Our principal model for improvement is the reporting system used by the National Institutes of Health to track and treat disease, and this requires better timeliness, comparability, accuracy, and coverage for transportation data. Our goal is to provide DOT with a new level of data quality, sufficient to identify, quantify, and minimize the risk factors in U.S. travel. This quality is essential to fact-based management of transportation safety programs.
The Safety in Numbers project was developed in response to Secretary Slater's 1999 National Transportation Safety Conference, where stakeholders identified better data collection and reporting across all jurisdictions as one of the top priorities to improve safety.
Four Safety Data Workshops were convened in September and October 1999, and a national conference was held in April 2000, to gather input and develop an action plan for improving the quality of safety data. Over 200 stakeholders participated, representing the diverse interests of the transportation community such as non-profit organizations, associations, businesses, government (state, local, and federal), advocacy organizations, and academia.
The Safety in Numbers workshops were organized along "modal" linesone each for marine and aviation, and two for surface transportation. However, the feedback from these workshops demonstrated many common concerns and themes, as summarized in the discussions at the national conference. Stakeholders worked together to discuss and assess the current data system, the impact of this system on safety policy and decision-making, and the desired future state where better data would provide a more complete picture of the transportation system and therefore contribute to a safer system.
Overall, participants felt that changes were needed in the current approach to safety data collection, analysis, and application. Problems with data quality, and lack of timeliness and relevance were cited repeatedly. Most participants agreed that continued improvements in transportation safety require sweeping improvements in the data. Visions of a desired future state included a user-friendly system that provides "one-stop shopping" for transportation safety data and research, integration of the latest technology and automated data collection, "real time" data collection and analysis, nationaland eventually internationaldata standards, and a national effort to monitor and continue improving the quality of transportation safety data.
Key next steps identified by participants centered around the following:
The Safety in Numbers project directly supports the DOT Strategic Safety Goal - "Promote the public health and safety by working toward the elimination of transportation-related deaths, injuries, and property damage."
The plan is divided into two sections: