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Changing the Way We Record Crash Data Could Save Lives

Courtesy FHP Orlando Twitter

Six people, including a child, were injured Friday in a crash in the tourist district of Orange County, officials said,” WKMG news report from May 2019.

Four people were injured after a car crashed into a Casselberry overpass early Tuesday at Red Bug Lake Road and State Road 436,” Orlando Sentinel article from June 2019.

“Apopka police are investigating an early morning car crash that killed one person and sent another to the hospital,” Fox35 news report from March 2019.

Similar stories can be found almost daily in the news outlets of Central Florida. Study after study claims Florida’s roads are the most dangerous and the riskiest for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. But soon those statisticians will have a new tool in their tool box—a more accurate recording of car crash data

The U.S. Department of Transportation is requiring all states to use the same definition for “serious injuries” in crash reports. States were required to fully adopt this definition by April 2019, but were encouraged to begin using it in January (to have a full year of complete crash data).

Courtesy FHP Orlando Twitter

Why force the change?

It’s about comparing apples to apples. For example: let’s say you want to compare crash data for the top 10 largest cities in the U.S. As you start digging into the data, you realize Texas (Houston, Dallas) has a different definition for a serious injury crash than Illinois (Chicago). It’s pretty easy to determine what constitutes a “fatal” crash, but standardizing injury stats was previously a voluntary thing.

What is the new definition?

First, it’s not new. That’s a misconception. The US-DOT is requiring the use of the MMUCC 4th Edition definition for “Suspected Serious Injury (A).” This version of the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria was adopted in 2012. It defines serious injury as resulting in one or more of the following:

  • Severe laceration resulting in exposure of underlying tissues/muscle/organs or resulting in significant loss of blood
  • Broken or distorted extremity (arm or leg)
  • Crush injuries
  • Suspected skull, chest or abdominal injury other than bruises or minor lacerations
  • Significant burns (second or third degree burns over 10% or more of the body)
  • Unconsciousness when taken from the crash scene
  • Paralysis

In the state’s 2018 Highway Safety Plan created by the Florida Department of Transportation, money was set aside to hire two employees tasked with improving Florida’s crash and uniform citation (UTC) data.

Training is critical at the law enforcement level, as official crash reports are often the only official data from the scene of the crash. In order for the data to remain pure, it must be recorded correctly, right from the beginning. Hopefully, with this new mandate in place, organizations like Best Foot Forward will see more accurate data and be able to present a more accurate picture of the danger (or safety) of Central Florida’s roads.

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