Big Data Helps Keep Highways Safe in Utah

Big Data

A cable-barrier was constructed in Interstate 80 in Northen Utah to protect drivers from out of control automobiles / Photo by Funny Solution Studio via Shutterstock.com

 

A recent feature story posted on govtech.com discussed how drivers traveling along Interstate 80 located in Northern Utah received an added layer of security and protection from out-of-control automobiles. A few years ago, a cable-barrier was constructed in the median between the two directions of the road, a direct benefit courtesy of big data.

Robert Miles, the director of traffic and safety at the Utah Department of Transportation, stated, “Even though in many parts of [I-80] we have a very wide median, we found there was a need for additional shoulder protection because of the types of crashes we were still having.”

The Utah DOT engineers have been looking at a large volume of crash data from multiple sources to gain a better understanding of the different issues and intricacies affecting traffic along the highway. They used data analysis tools like Numeric, which organizes and sorts vast amounts of information to better give engineers and safety officials more information on traffic conditions, design features of roads, and other pertinent information.

This level of analysis and scrutiny was done all across Utah as UDOT prioritized safety projects over everything else.

Numetric CEO Nate Bowler said, “We help DOTs be more efficient and make more data-driven decisions and improve their state’s roadways, from a safety perspective. And when you take all of that information and combine it, you can start to do some very interesting analysis, and figure out, ‘Where are my hot spots in my roadway network?’”

The company is also working with the transportation departments of New Jersey, South Carolina, and New York.

To be able to get more traffic and crash-related data in front of relevant people to make better data-driven solutions is one of the main priorities at the Utah DOT.

Miles continued, “The more people we have looking at those crash records, those safety records, the more likely you are to find different solutions that we haven’t thought of before. And so, one of our mantras here is, we want to get safety data as close to the hands of the designers as possible, as close to the problem-solvers as possible. We want lots of opinions, and we want those experts to provide depth and meaning…We want people to feel like they own the safety on their projects.”