If you want safer roads, you have to have accurate and effective crash reporting. The forms used to gather information about crashes are an essential first step in the process.
Early this year, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a new form giving law enforcement officers an option when it comes to reporting crashes. Designed to make crash scene reporting easier and more accurate, the form is the result of teamwork between the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).
“Because traffic statistics determine so many things related to safer roads — how safety dollars are spent and what transportation research is conducted — accurate crash reporting is critical,” explains Troy Walden, associate research scientist in TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety. “We think the new form could have an important impact on safety…and we’re especially pleased that it meets the needs of TxDOT.”
Walden says that some law enforcement officers across the state were experiencing frustration with the crash-reporting form that went into effect in January 2010. “In July of last year, TxDOT challenged us to come up with a new, user-friendly version that would satisfy the needs for data collection by law enforcement in the field, but also conform to the data entry requirements needed for proper coding into the Crash Records Information System,” Walden says.
Walden and Senior Research Specialist Bob Gilbert, both former law enforcement officers, conducted numerous forums and surveys with agencies across the state to assess the usability of the previous version of the form. Gilbert and Walden say the result was a new form that some feel is simpler to use, takes less time to complete and was tested to be more accurate than the form currently in place. In addition, it conforms to the reporting requirements that TxDOT outlined as priorities.
Officers who wanted a change said they liked numerous aspects of the new form, including:
- crash codes added directly to the form that allow officers to write a description of a crash without having to refer back to confusing code sheets,
- larger font sizes and data fields, and
- a simplified and logical format.
The new form has been available for use across the state since July 1, 2011. Agencies have the option of using either the new or older form.
“We have not heard any complaints about the new version from law enforcement agencies,” TxDOT Traffic Operations Director Carol Rawson says. “And in this case, I really think no news is good news. It’s good that law enforcement officers have a choice, especially if it makes their job easier.”