Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Highway Safety Superheroes

Not all heroes wear capes, so the saying goes, and a prime example of that is the Washington College GIS Program’s Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) project. The project is split into two parts: traffic improvements and impaired driving analysis. The team of staff and students are tasked with working with and analyzing crash and citation data throughout the whole state of Maryland and reporting those analyses through detailed map products to the Maryland Highway Safety Office and multiple police agencies.

Sean Lynn is the staff member and Analyst II who works on the traffic side on the MHSO project, handling requests from multiple agencies who are interested in different aspects of traffic safety. The MHSO team — comprised of Analyst I Alicia Shipley, Analyst II Michael McGahee, and several students, such as Josh Hyde, Chelsea Stevens, Jonathan Seitz, Julie Golinksi, and Elijah McGuire-Berk — handle a lot of on-site requests for data from DUI citations, to bicycle and pedestrian data, to just regular crash data.

“We do a lot of crash analysis,” Lynn said, “creating hotspot areas for each county to help show police where most of the crashes are occurring in their patrol areas. We do a lot of statistical charts and graphs with the data. One example of that is our popular temporal topology analysis. They are essentially heat maps that focus on the time and day when accidents are occurring. The red areas on the map are showing a high amount of crashes at those particular times, whereas the green areas are reflecting low to zero number of crashes at those times.

The traffic side of MHSO takes care of all of the on-demand projects in addition to a couple of small reoccurring projects, Lynn explained, whereas the other side of MHSO, the impaired side, handles most of the reoccurring monthly projects.

“We do a monthly report for the State Police Impaired Driving Effort (SPIDRE) Team, a quarterly report for multiple counties in the state, as well as holiday analysis maps,” Lynn explained.

In the instance of the “holiday analysis maps,” the team analyzes holidays, such as Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, or Labor Day, since those holidays tend to have alcohol-related accidents.

“We try to figure out where, historically, these accidents are happening to predict where they’re going to be occurring in 2016, so officers are aware of where to patrol in those areas,” Lynn said.

MHSO does all the reports and statistics for the SPIDRE Team, Maryland’s designated impaired task force comprised of about 7 troopers whose duties are to patrol the metropolitan areas of Maryland to look for any drunk drivers.

“So we evaluate through our monthly Post Patrol Analysis if they are stopping enough people and seeing what effect they are having on trying to get drunk drivers off of the road,” Lynn said.

The latest report that went out, by request, was the 40-on-40 project.
In this 40-on-40 project, taking place on Super bowl Weekend, the GIS Program’s MHSO team joined forces with nearly a dozen police agencies, covering 80-miles of Route 40 with 40 posted officers to look out for impaired drivers.

Route 40 was chosen for this weekend because of the studies the MHSO team has done on its history of alcohol-related crashes.

“They chose the Super bowl Weekend because there has been a higher amount of deaths and serious crashes on that particular weekend. They chose Route 40 because it touches several counties in Maryland,” Lynn explained.

The counties they focused on were Howard, Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil.

“Our report was focused on how many deaths were occurring on each of the days surrounding the Super bowl…so we focused on each day leading up and a day after to see what the correlation was: how many deaths, how many injuries, and top times of crashes.  At the end of the 40-on-40 enforcement everyone who was a part of it said it was very successful. There actually were no deaths and no serious injuries,” Lynn said.

Because of their work, the team was actually featured in the Baltimore Sun in February.

“It was a great job by Maryland State Police, because they did the second half of the work, where we chipped in for the first half.” The team went down and had a meeting with Tom Gianni, who’s the chief of Maryland Highway Safety Office, and discussed their research and briefed them, along with a team of troopers who were also a part of the enforcement, a week prior to the Superbowl to establish a solid plan.

“It was a very good initiative,” Lynn said. “And I hope that Maryland starts doing more initiatives of the weekends to keep people off the roads while they’re drinking. So the hope is, in the long run, is that we reach our goal of zero deaths.”

Aside from the successful 40-on-40 project, the team also works on a monthly post patrol for the SPIDRE Team, a quarterly analysis for alcohol-related driving, holiday analysis for alcohol-related driving, Aberdeen crash trend reports, Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) analysis, and creating the new RAVEN web application.


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