New Tool Aims at Improving Safety on Florida Roads

A recent article published by The News Herald caught the attention of our Panama City car accident lawyer. The piece opened with a disturbing fact - in 2011, Panama City ranked as Florida's most dangerous city of its size for motorists and pedestrians. Committed to changing this distinction, police in our area have been looking at possible solutions to make our streets safer.

One tool in this arsenal is TraCS (Traffic and Criminal Software), a traffic citation and crash reporting program aimed at saving lives and reducing costs. TraCS helps eliminate investigative paperwork and allow traffic incident data to be analyzed and sent to decision-making authorities. The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) can also use information generated by the TraCS program to better allocate tax dollars. Florida spends nearly a billion dollars each year for roadway repair, expenditures that can be aimed at the most dangerous areas.

The software also allows local police to collect and analyze information about where and when accidents occur, especially accidents that involve serious injuries or deaths. Officials can then target both enforcement and education efforts. PCPD recently began releasing weekly updates listing the number of crashes in the prior week, the number that contained injuries, and the three intersections that saw the highest number of accidents in the prior week. Patrol officers also receive a monthly bulletin listing the city's 10 most dangerous intersections.

Further, TraCS allows police to increase enforcement in areas that see the most instances of dangerous driving behavior, such as an intersection where red light cameras capture a high rate of violations. Signage about dangerous behavior and a visible police presence can help alter behavior, in addition to increased ticketing. Police can respond to real-time incident information, and areas with recurring problems may be subject to an engineering audit to determine if a design problem exists.

TraCS can save both time and money by allowing officers to complete an electronic version of Florida's Traffic Crash Report that is wirelessly transmitted to the police station for supervisor review. One DOT official compared it to TurboTax software, noting that question-style prompts help officers complete the forms. Information is then transmitted to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as well as local courthouses.

Grant funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cover the cost of TraCS for any law enforcement agency in Florida. Approximately 175 Florida agencies had taken advantage of the funding as of the end of March. The use of TraCS may also help Florida receive additional federal funding because one factor in determining federal allocations is how quickly a state gets crash information. Completing crash reports in a timely fashion helps the state look good to federal officials, and this process is sped up by the electronic TraCS system, which is much more efficient than completing reports by hand. TraCS helps reduce redundancy, avoids the need for data to be re-entered multiple times, and speeds communication.

For additional information on efforts to improve the safety of Florida roadways, see the website for the Florida Department of Transportation's Safety Office.

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