The problem: The Department of Transportation maintains in excess of 40 programs that capture either safety data or crucial related information, such as measures of exposure. But a recent data quality review requested by Congress suggests that quality improvements can be made that will better serve the DOT mission.
What we need: The first step in improving our data programs will be a data quality audit. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics intends to perform a full quality audit of 29 data programs. This audit will be done in two stages: the first stage will identify broad quality issues for each program, and the second stage will produce a detailed report describing problems and potential remedies.
Following this initial assessment of major data-collections systems, areas for possible process improvement activities will be identified, working closely with the modal data-collection organizations and data suppliers. Process improvements will then be developed and implemented. There will be periodic review of data collection to keep the processes flexible and up-to-date and to ensure quality.
Benefits: Unless we have reliable and accurate data, we will be basing program decisions on a misguided understanding of the transportation system and its operating environment. With improved data, DOT's safety programs will become not only more effective, but more cost-effective as well. As DOT more accurately focuses its inspection, education, regulatory, investment, and research efforts, both the numbers of fatalities and injuries and the costs for prevention will decline.