For three years, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has been using special software to predict where serious or fatal crashes might happen and then sending Troopers there in hopes of preventing them. They are now sharing that technology with every county sheriff’s office in the state.
The software compiles data from every accident report filed in the state as well traffic citations over time. Then, that information is coupled with current weather reports and upcoming special events, like a concert or a sports game, which might affect the flow of traffic.
The data is translated into maps that can help troopers get the date, and even the time and precise locations, where serious accidents might occur. The prediction even calculates the likelihood of a crash involving drugs or alcohol.
The program was initially funded by a federal grant through the Governor's Highway Safety Office. State troopers say the models have so far proven to be accurate about 70 percent of the time. By the end of 2015, the number of fatal traffic accidents became the third lowest since 1963. Response times also decreased.
Though improvements cannot be attributed directly to the Predictive Analytics program, a spokesperson for the highway patrol said they are confident it played a role. But as of last year, traffic deaths are once again on the rise.
The model is now being shared free of charge in hopes that increased awareness across the state can drive the numbers down.
Wes Moster, THP's deputy director of communications, says the mere presence of a patrol car by the side of the road can affect the way people drive.
“If a trooper and now a sheriff’s deputy can be in an area where there’s a high probability of a serious or fatal crash, we hope that [their presence] can increase the chance the crash won’t happen at all,” Moster says.
And if a crash does occur, Moster says now it's more likely an officer will be nearby.