Effects of a Towaway Reporting Threshold on Crash Analysis Results

Federal Highway Administration

While all law enforcement agencies seem to be dealing with declining resources and increasing pressures to combat crime, urban police departments seem to be experiencing the greatest difficulty. It is in these agencies where the decline in crash reporting has started. However, State law enforcement has also experienced funding reductions, while also taking on greater responsibilities for crime control. Even though traffic law enforcement and crash investigation are major responsibilities for these agencies, it has become more difficult to perform this role. To combat this reduction in resources, many agencies have begun to raise the reporting threshold for traffic crashes. Some agencies no longer report property-damage-only (PDO) crashes, unless the vehicle is not driveable or must be towed from the scene. Other agencies have raised the threshold to require reports only on crashes involving injury.

Procedures such as problem identification, countermeasure identification, and countermeasure evaluation are commonly conducted by users of crash data when establishing policy, developing programs, and creating new roadway designs to enhance highway safety. Changes in reporting thresholds will alter the data set available to conduct these activities and may create problems for analysis. These problems should be anticipated, and accounted for, in any change of policy regarding crash reporting. There are clearly some differences in the reporting practices of the eight HSIS States that make it inappropriate to combine data for many types of analyses. The purpose of this paper is to quantify the expected effects on data analysis capabilities if one or more of the HSIS States convert to a towaway-and-above threshold.

Filed in: Engineering, Plans and Policies, Crashes and Safety

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