New data tool on road safety helps implement bipartisan infrastructure law


by Heather Ducharme, Director of Future Digital Business Products, GM

by Harnit Anand, Head of Strategy and Business Development – Smart Cities, GM

This past year, public and private sector leaders joined forces to address a common challenge facing Americans: the need to improve infrastructure and roadway safety across the country. Progress has been made in recent months: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in September that U.S. roadway fatalities are declining for the first time since 2020. However, this positive trend must catalyze more action – not less – to maintain momentum and further improve safety as communities emerge from the pandemic and leaders strive to accomplish Vision Zero goals.

Today, infrastructure leaders are taking action with an all-hands-in-approach for innovating solutions and creating safer roads. At General Motors, our team is advancing our commitment to roadway and community safety through key products by GM Future Roads, which aim to leverage GM’s network of connected vehicles to help government agencies make better-informed infrastructure and roadway safety decisions. GM has about 15 million connected vehicles in the United States and Canada with sensors that offer actionable insights into roadway issues. Safety View by GM Future Roads & INRIX is GM Future Road’s leading product. Additionally, GM Future Roads is working on a new product that offers pothole detection.

Co-developed with INRIX, a leading provider of transportation data and analytics, the Safety View cloud-based tool is one of the few offerings that provides crash, vehicle, vulnerable road user (VRU), and U.S. Census datasets and analytical tools in one place. Safety View, designed for Vision Zero and other road safety programs, provides actionable data insights that can help inform both planning and operations activities.

What are the collision patterns in speeding hotspots? Where do you have the highest concentration of vulnerable road uses? Where might you target safety training for “buckle up for safety” campaigns? A holistic data-driven approach can help transportation officials tackle these types of key questions and gain a deeper understanding of where to prioritize efforts.

ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card further underscores the need to prioritize strategic investments to improve and preserve safety on our roads today, and also pave the way for safe roadways of the future. Today, 43% of U.S. public roadways are in poor condition, according to ASCE—costing billions in repairs, while slowing the transfer of our nation’s goods and presenting major public safety risks. The role of data analytics cannot be overlooked when it comes to both resource preservation and effectively addressing critical areas of need.

Road networks around school zones is one area transportation officials are increasingly placing their focus. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has designated unprecedented levels of funding toward Safe Routes to School and other safety programs. The efficacy of traffic signs and school zone designations, for instance, could be an invaluable insight for helping municipalities optimize spend and calibrate on road safety efforts in school zones. A recent INRIX school traffic safety study, conducted with data analytics available through Safety View, sought to explore this further, answering questions like: Do drivers speed less in school zones? Are crash rates lower on school zone streets?

GM Future Roads tool shows crash frequency and severity in select road segments.

Using Safety View to analyze crash, volume, speed, and demographic data within a quarter mile of 27 schools in Washington, D.C., the study found:

  • Despite areas being designated as a school zone, driving speeds and crashes remained on the same level as other roadways.
  • While speeding and crash rates didn’t vary much between school zone and non-school zones, severe injuries and fatalities were less frequent in and around schools.
  • Speeding is more prevalent in school zones with higher percentages of students on free- or reduced-lunch programs.

The analysis also provided a deeper dive into a particular stretch of road in the DC sample, where 55% of vehicles traveled faster than 25 mph between 8–10 a.m. These findings illustrate how data and analytics can provide invaluable insights for transportation planners on where to take action.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offers a once-in-a-generation funding opportunity for innovative technologies that can help create safer, more efficient, and more equitable communities and roadways. The time has never been more opportune for collaboration between private, public and industry association leaders to drive tech-driven change and create lasting positive impact.

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