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2015 Traffic Fatalities Data Has Just Been Released: A Call to Action to Download and Analyze

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is releasing 2015 traffic fatality data in raw format and putting out a call to action to jump in and analyze it.

This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Transportation's blog. See the original post here.


That is the number of people who died on our nation’s highways in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015. Your neighbor driving to work. Your niece walking to the park. Your brother biking home. Every day, nearly 100 people die from vehicle related accidents.

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation is releasing an open data set that contains detailed, anonymized information about each of these tragic incidents. As the new data being released show, and as DOT reported earlier this summer, 2015 showed a marked increase in traffic fatalities nationwide.

To be precise, 7.2% more people died in traffic-related accidents in 2015 than in 2014. This unfortunate data point breaks a recent historical trend of fewer deaths occurring per year.

Under the leadership of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, we’re doing two things differently this year.

One: We’re publishing the data through NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) three months earlier than last year.

Two: We’re directly soliciting your help to better understand what these data are telling us. Whether you’re a non-profit, a tech company, or just a curious citizen wanting to contribute to the conversation in your local community, we want you to jump in and help us understand what the data are telling us.

Some key questions worth exploring:

  • How might improving economic conditions around the country change how Americans are getting around? What models can we develop to identify communities that might be at a higher risk for fatal crashes?
  • How might climate change increase the risk of fatal crashes in a community?
  • How might we use studies of attitudes toward speeding, distracted driving, and seat belt use to better target marketing and behavioral change campaigns?
  • How might we monitor public health indicators and behavior risk indicators to target communities that might have a high prevalence of behaviors linked with fatal crashes (drinking, drug use/addiction, etc.)? What countermeasures should we create to address these issues?

A number of private sector firms and educational institutions have already committed to answer this call to action. They’re doing this though a number of mechanisms: by combining these new data with their own, hosting hackathons, and launching new analytical platforms. These commitments include:

  • StreetLight Data, a mobility analytics provider that transforms geospatial data from mobile devices into Metrics that describe travel patterns, is providing free access to their data sets, which describe driving patterns, in the vicinity of fatal crashes. Researchers and data scientists can request access to the data, which will be provided at no cost through the end of 2017.
  • CARTO, a leader in location intelligence, an analytical platform for geospatial data, is making FARS data available to the public through their platform and allow researchers to combine data from other government and private sector sources.
  • Mapbox, a mapping platform for developers, is developing interactive tools to help better educate citizens about fatal crashes that occur around them in their daily lives. One example is that Mapbox will launch an application that uses the fatality analysis data along with their directions service to show crashes along a commute route over the last five years, along with contributing factors such as alcohol or excessive speed.
  • Waze, a traffic and navigation app, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to share data through the Connected Citizens Program. This free program empowers municipal leaders to harness real-time driver insights to improve congestion and make better informed planning decisions.

From his first day in office, the President has been a leading voice to ensure that the transformative power of data and technology is used to help address some of our toughest challenges. The journey toward zero deaths on our roads will be a long one, but data will provide the guiding lights to take us there.

DOT is aggressively seeking ways to improve safety on the roads. From our work with the auto industry to improve vehicle safety, to new solutions to behavioral challenges like drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving, we know we need to find novel solutions to old challenges.

We’re also looking to accelerate technologies that may make driving safer, including connected and highly automated vehicles.

But we need your help, too! Data Science is a team sport.

We are calling on data scientists, public health experts, students and researchers—even if you have never thought about road safety before—to dive in to these data and help answer these important questions, especially on tough issues like pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.

Start by downloading and playing with the data. Then share your insights and let us know what you find by sending us a note at

We are excited to have you engaged and look forward to hearing from you.

DJ Patil is the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Dr. Mark Rosekind is the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.