Guest Blog: Jamie Holter, Former State DOT Communications Manager

In March, 2021 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Safety Council released staggering statistics for 2020:

  • 42,060 people died in crashes up 7.5% from 2019.
  • 8 million people suffered serious injuries.
  • The fatality rate per 100 million miles increased by 24%, the largest annual increase in more than 100 years of data collection.
  • Speed was the predominant cause of collisions.

Given that the world was in lockdown with an unprecedented low traffic volume, this news feels unexpected. Yet, it is a worldwide problem: fewer cars = faster speeds.

If there is any hopeful news in this, it’s that technology can be part of the solution.

INRIX Real-Time Safety Data
Traffic operators do a great job of informing drivers by lighting-up Dynamic or Variable Message Signs and alerting drivers via social media about crashes or sudden slowing. But even traffic operators don’t (immediately) know about every incident.

Pennsylvania DOT recently won the National Operations Center of Excellence Award for managing incidents. They detected up to 87% more crashes statewide and 35-50% of the incidents more quickly, using INRIX Real-Time Safety Data as part of the solution.

Many states use INRIX Real-Time Safety data, like incidents and queue detection, to automatically alert to problems and instantly map them.  The Ohio DOT uses the Dangerous Slowdown APl in their applications to alert traffic operators and provide highly detailed data about speed differential. INRIX floating car data provides the ability to identify the drop in speed, the location, AND create the alert.

With INRIX Real-Time data, operators can be pro-active about alerting to dangerous slowdowns and unexpected queues. These alerts can save lives.

Commercial Vehicle Alerts
A fully loaded truck takes 66% longer to stop than a passenger vehicle. By the time the truck driver reacts to sudden braking, it’s already too late. Secondary crashes account for nearly 50% of congestion, and an even longer ‘incident influence’, –t he time it takes to return to normal free flow – according to a recent PennDOT Study.

Pro-active, in-cab vehicle alerts, with trigger thresholds set by local agencies, deliver the early warning long-haul drivers need to safely slow down or take alternate routes.

Our safety partner Drivewyze, a leader in the trucking industry, provides critical information to truck drivers across the US and Canada that can help reduce crashes and save lives.

Highway Emergency Link Platform (HELP)
HELP is an emergency alerting service for extreme situations when travelers are stuck on a road for an extended period of time. Whether the cause is a serious crash, an unexpected closure, or weather event drivers are often left waiting anxiously in their vehicles for hours.

Traditional and social media communications channels may not reach the people directly impacted.  Drivers need accurate, actionable information, and safety instructions. HELP reaches people directly during emergencies by communicating with travelers. HELP Alerts are an award-winning incident response and information system that uses wireless emergency alerts (WEA) – like and Amber Alert – to notify drivers and establish direct one-way or two-way (1:1 or 1: many) communications.

Our safety partner, Information Logistics (iLog), an expert in this space, provides this safety service in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and soon in Texas and Maryland.

Finally, A Tool for the Speed-Tracking
While the previous data and applications help to alert and manage safety issues, INRIX data can be used for speed-tracking as well. Speed data – where and when drivers are consistently exceeding the posted speed limit – can be shared with law enforcement as part of safety patrols.

Virginia DOT engineers knew speeding was a problem but wanted to quantify how much of a problem. Specifically: where, when, how fast. and how often drivers are excessively speeding. Excessive is defined as 10+ miles per hour OVER the posted speed limit.

VDOT used INRIX speed data to track and analyze speeding in half-mile increments on an 11-mile section of VA-7 that leads to Washington DC. What they found was alarming. At nearly all times of the day, travelers were driving at excessive speeds.

With this information, VDOT formulated a plan to address the issue on this road and others in the state.

Faster Speeds = Better Tools
It’s hard to know when congestion will return and force slower speeds. Even then, tools to alert and manage the problem are a good start to increasing safety on our roads in this new-for-now normal.