U Minnesota Researchers Create 'Safe Road Maps' Mashup

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have created a Google Maps mashup, called SafeRoadMaps, which pinpoints the location of every fatal accident that has happened in the United States using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

"When drivers type in their most common routes, they're shocked how much blood is being shed on it," said Tom Horan, research director for Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS). "When it's the route you or your loved ones use, the need to buckle up, slow down, and avoid distractions and drinking suddenly becomes much more personal and urgent."

Users to the site can enter an address to find out the details of fatal accidents in that vicinity. They'll have the ability to narrow down their search to see the age of the driver, whether speeding or drinking was a factor, and if the driver was wearing a seatbelt. One of the most important aspects of the new tool also illustrates which life-saving public policies, such as strong seat belt laws, are in the chosen area.

"This tool sheds light on the importance of strong public policy that helps save lives in states across the nation," said Lee Munnich, a professor at the school's Humphrey Institute and director of CERS. "When you can visually see how many lives can be saved, it really changes how the public and policy makers see our roads."

CERS officials hope the tool will educate the public, especially those that live in rural areas, about road fatalities. U.S. Census figures show that 21 percent of Americans live in rural areas and the Federal Highway Administration has found that 57 percent of highway deaths happen on rural roads.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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