Life-saving analysis in the GIS Lab

July 02, 2014
Analysis by Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems program is helping a Maryland county reduce its traffic fatalities through a better understanding of where and why accidents occur.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program is doing life-saving work in partnership with Harford County, Maryland, where its computer mapping and data analysis are helping officials lower the number of traffic-related deaths and injuries. The Harford County Traffic Safety Advisory Board, established by the County Council in early 2014 with the goal of reducing traffic deaths and injuries by half, has developed a comprehensive program that includes public information projects and data analysis by the GIS Lab’s Crime Mapping and Analysis Program. 

With funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Maryland Highway Safety Office, the Crime Mapping and Analysis Program (CMAP) at Washington College routinely works with law enforcement and highway officials at state and local levels, using computer mapping of data and other infographics to show where, when, and even why accidents are happening in Maryland communities. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, senior GIS project manager Erica McMaster met with the Advisory Board in June to explain the program and answer questions. 

CMAP staffers, including Washington College students trained in GIS, work with police agencies that include the Maryland State Police, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Bel Air Police Department and the Aberdeen Police Department, using data drawn from accident reports and citations. Because of the time it takes to collect the reports from individual agencies – many of them handwritten – and enter them into the statewide databases, there can be a backlog of three to six months before the most recent information is available for analysis. McMaster said the situation will improve when the state’s new Automated Crash Reporting System goes into effect. 

State Police lieutenant Elliot Cohen, who works closely with the GIS staff on mapping and analysis projects, said that State Police officials are working to increase the speed and accuracy of their data collection and sharing, and that the new automated reporting system is scheduled to go live on January 1, 2015. “The analysis is only as good as how accurate the data is,” he said in the Sun article. 

Photo: GIS Lab student intern Leon Newkirk works on a Harford County traffic map.

Read the full Baltimore Sun article by reporter David Anderson here.

Last modified on Jul. 2nd, 2014 at 11:58am by Kay MacIntosh.