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5.6 Analysis and use of Data to Improve Safety

Crash data can be extremely useful to a number of agencies and individuals, including:

  • traffic engineers – in the identification, analysis and treatment of existing risks and the prevention of future risk problems;
  • policy-makers – at national, regional and local levels in setting crash reduction targets, developing road safety action plans, and monitoring performance;
  • police – in the identification of problem locations and times for enforcement;
  • health sector – for resource planning, injury surveillance, health promotion and injury prevention interventions;
  • research community – in preventative studies and in testing and improving the effectiveness of road safety treatments;
  • insurance companies – in setting insurance rates and premiums;
  • vehicle manufacturers – in the development of safer vehicles;
  • prosecutors – in the use of data as evidence.

This section considers the availability of crash data, different users, and current international cooperative efforts to improve crash data.

Availability of Crash Data

Crash data is useless to organisations that cannot access it. Appropriate methods for distributing data should be developed for each agency that requires it, through the use of statistical reports, newsletters, websites and workshops (WHO, 2010). If the funding is available, an excellent way to make crash data available is through the use of online public searchable databases, which can provide customised reports based on location, injury type, or other crash characteristics (WHO, 2010). An example of such a system is provided in Box 5.6.

Box 5.6: UK crash database access vis the internet (CrashMap)

CrashMap ( is a publicly available online tool that allows users to search for crashes (by severity) to see where and when they took place. Users may nominate whether to include all casualty types in the search results, or whether the results should focus on cyclist, pedestrian, child or motorcycle casualties. The results provide a mapped display of crash locations, graphed with colour tags to indicate the applicable severity level. Alternatively, tags may be uniquely coloured and display a number greater than one, to indicate that multiple crash reports exist for a particular location. Each tag provides an overview of the crash details, including the date of the crash, the severity level, and the number of vehicles and casualties involved. Further details of crashes are available upon registration with the site and at a small cost. This charge supports the ongoing maintenance of the service.


Another effective method to distribute data is through the media, which can act as an agent of change by influencing public and political opinions.

It is important to remember that regardless of the method of distribution, those responsible for crash data also hold the responsibility to protect the privacy of individuals involved. Steps can be taken to assist with this as outlined in WHO (2010).

Uses of Road Safety Data

Advocacy purposes

Data can be used to raise awareness about particular road safety issues, and to act as evidence and draw support for a certain policy, programme or allocation of resources (WHO, 2010). Common advocacy activities include workshops, news reports and campaigns. Advocacy is an important part of road safety – it can be the source of funding and public support. It is important to note that any advocacy material must take the target audience and the context of the recommendation/cause into account in order to have a desirable affect. WHO (2010) provides a number of tips for developing advocacy messages for policy-makers. The Cambodia case study demonstrates the use of road safety data for advocacy purposes.

CASE STUDY - Cambodia: Summary Report from RCVIS 

Although a developed database exists for the analysis of crash data, key information was not being provided to appropriate stakeholders. Recognising that lengthy reports are not likely to be read by senior managers and politicians, the National Road Safety Committee in Cambodia revised the reporting from their crash system. Along with detailed reports, they produce a summary report that provides key headline analysis on crash outcomes. Clear graphs, tables and maps are provided that are easy to interpret, and can be quickly read and understood. This summary information is particularly useful for advocacy purposes and for informing senior management of key issues. Read More (PDF, 193 kb)

Road safety engineers are often the most common users of police-based crash databases for road safety work. Crash data is used to identify high crash risk sites, as well as possible identification of risk factors that are specific to the site. This is explained in further detail in Assessing Potential Risks and Identifying Issues.

In the identification of problematic crash locations, target groups or particular risk factors, policy makers use crash data to approximate the size of the problem in terms of counts, severity, trends and the costs of road traffic injuries (WHO, 2010). It is therefore important that these individuals have access to crash characteristics, such as age group, crash type and road user group, so that they can make informed decisions about which high-risk problems get priority and what solutions can be effectively implemented.

Police can also utilise crash data to target enforcement towards a particular issue or location. It is important that the police receive regular feedback so that they can see how their efforts in the collection of crash data, and in traffic enforcement, are having a positive impact (WHO, 2010).

Mononitoring, analysing and evaluating the performance of initiatives

Crash data is essential to evaluate treatments and policies that have been introduced. Evaluations provide a knowledge base about the effectiveness of a given treatment, as well as ensuring that current programmes are providing the expected and desired results.

New analyses can strengthen the known effectiveness of an initiative, such as through the development of crash modification factors (CMFs). Further information is provided in Monitoring and Evaluation of Road Safety on the monitoring, analysis and evaluation of road safety countermeasures, including the effectiveness of treatments and development of CMFs.

International and Regional Collaboration

International cooperation is essential for data coordination and benchmarking. International assessments can help to identify and monitor national road safety issues, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of any methods implemented on a wider scale. Benchmarking (through a comparison of safety performance with similar peer countries, regions, cities, etc.) can lead to the identification of road safety issues that need to be addressed. It is important to note that this cannot be achieved unless there is consistency across crash variable definitions. Coordination also helps countries and governments to improve their road safety data quality and collection systems (see Box 5.7).

Box 5.7: International road traffic and accident database (IRTAD)

Figure 5.8 - Source: OECD/ITF, (2014).

In 1988, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) established the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD). This database includes crash and traffic data from over 30 countries, which is continuously updated and analysed for trends.

The database includes data such as crash severity, road user group and road user age, and also includes relevant country details such as population, vehicle composition, road network length and seatbelt usage rates. This has allowed very useful benchmarking to occur, allowing comparison of fatality rates (e.g. road fatalities per 100,000 population) between countries.

The IRTAD Group is a working group consisting of road safety experts and statisticians from all over the world. Its main objective is to contribute to international cooperation on safety data and analysis. This is achieved through the exchange of data collection and reporting systems and trends in road safety policies, research and publications on key and emerging issues in road safety and through providing advice on specific road safety issues to member countries.

The IRTAD Group is also in charge of the development of the IRTAD network and database coverage, twinning programmes to assist LMICs in improving their data collection and reporting systems, the IRTAD Conference, and publication of the Annual Report. It also provides standardised definition and methodologies for comparison purposes (e.g. defining injury and crash severities)

Source: OECD/ITF, (2014).


Within the framework of its outreach strategy in LMICs, IRTAD has launched a twinning programme to assist countries. IRTAD is working with a number of organisations in an effort to assist LMICs improve their data collection methods and database setup and management. Several such arrangements exist, including twinning between Cambodia and the Netherlands, Jamaica and the UK, and Argentina and Spain. Other partnerships are currently being developed. The case study in Box 5.15 provides information on the twinning arrangements between Argentina and Spain. Box 5.16 provides details of a broader regional observatory in Latin America. Box 5.17 provides details of the IRTAD/OISEVI Buenos Aires declaration on better safety data for better road safety outcomes.

Example of data collection and use of data are shown in the following two case studies, highlighting Argentina and Spain, as well as the Ibero-American Road Safety Observatory.

CASE STUDY - Argentina and Spain: Twinning Arrangement

Lack of reliable and comprehensive information on accidents at a national level in Argentina. In April 2010, the World Bank provided funding for a twinning arrangement between Argentina and Spain, as part of the IRTAD exchange. Spain assisted Argentina to improve its data collection and analysis systems, with the view to help the Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV, ‘National Agency for the Safety of Flight’, the lead agency in Argentina) become an IRTAD member.. By developing a national accident database, the data from all jurisdictions was collected using a standardised form to allow for the inclusion of the ANSV Database in the IRTAD group. Read More (PDF, 92 kb)
CASE STUDY - Ibero-American: Road Safety Observatory 

Lack of regional capacity in collection and analysis of road safety data. The OISEVI was created in 2011, and 18 countries have joined with the goal of sharing knowledge and best practice policy-making and planning. The main aim of OISEVI is to share road safety information, particularly best practices in policy formulation, planning, road safety strategies and data management. It is also aimed at improving expertise in road safety and knowledge sharing among practitioners and improving road safety outcomes in Ibero America. Read More (PDF, 110 kb)

Box 5.8: Buenos Aires declaration

In November 2013, 40 countries met at the Joint IRTAD/OISEVI Conference in Buenos Aires. The meeting agreed on 12 recommendations on better safety data for better road safety outcomes, including that:

  • Reliable crash, contextual and exposure data are essential for understanding road safety issues, setting targets and implementing effective policy.
  • A minimum set of data is required, including outcome data (including the number of persons killed and injured by type of road users, type of roads, time, etc.), output level data (including performance indicators) and contextual data (including exposure data such as population, the number of vehicle kilometres driven).
  • Safety data should be aggregated at national level.
  • A road safety observatory, under a lead road safety agency or a lead ministry, is a good institutional setting to raise the profile of road safety.
  • Regular monitoring and analysis of key road safety risk factors should be undertaken.
  • The international community should work towards harmonisation of data.
  • Information on injury crashes is essential for a more complete picture of road safety, and MAIS3+ should be used to define a seriously injured road casualty.
  • Police data will remain the main source for road crash statistics, but this should be supported by hospital data.
  • Benchmarking between countries is a useful way to generate road safety improvement and learn from others.

Full details can be found at the following website:


In Europe, a centralised database of road crashes has been developed. The Community Road Accident Database (or CARE) is hosted by the European Commission and includes information on fatal and injury crashes. Details on individual crashes are retained (i.e. the information is not combined), thereby allowing for more powerful analyses to be conducted. A protocol for the collection of data has been developed, with common variables specified. The intention of the database is to provide the basis for analysis to:

  • identify and quantify safety problems on European roads;
  • evaluate road safety measures;
  • determine the impact of actions;
  • share experience.

Further information on CARE can be found on the European Commission website (

Reference sources

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