The problem: Much of our safety data are reported only on an annual basis, and for most of our safety data there are reporting lags of up to several months after the accident or end of reporting period. When we reported safety results in our first DOT Performance Report to Congress, we could not provide the data for many of the measures three months after the end of the year. The Deputy Secretary has characterized this situation as like "light from a distant star-it may have been extinguished long ago by the time we see it." This is not adequate for managing and redirecting our programs throughout the year, and it is not adequate for reporting performance against our goals.
What we need: We should have safety data on a monthly basis at least, and with no more than a 30-day lag. To achieve this, we will need to reexamine our processes for collecting the data, and explore options for alternative data collection where the processes cannot be changed easily. The solutions may involve new technology or different operating procedures. In any event, we will need to be very aware of how incentives act on the behavior of those who report or collect the data.
Benefits: More timely data will allow us to identify trends earlier, and take corrective actions earlier. This could mean program design changes or reallocation of resources, but the effect would be fewer deaths, injuries and accidents. More timely data will also provide greater credibility in our performance reporting, helping to underpin the department's budget requests.