Yippee! Traffic Accident Stats Now Viewable Online

DMV crash map of western Henrico for 2017.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has posted on its website an awesome tool that allows website visitors to explore the geographic location of traffic accidents by individual city and county. You can drop back for a macro overview, as seen in the map of western Henrico shown above, or zoom in to examine precise specific intersections, as seen in the image at left.

Another cool feature is the ability to filter accidents by cause. Was alcohol involved? Were the drivers young (between 15 and 20?) How many accidents could be blamed on cell phones? How many involved deer? Incorporation data going back to 2013, the map can isolate data by single year.

This is a useful tool for citizens who might want to know how accident-prone are the streets and roads near where they live or work, and whether factors such as drinking, teen drivers, or cell-phone distraction were involved. The Crash Locations Map also is potentially useful — though it could be made better, as I’ll explain — for wonks like me who like to examine the relationship between law enforcement, land use and transportation.

On that point, I have long held to a commonly asserted Smart Growth claim that cities are safer than suburbs when it comes to surface transportation. Sure, cities are more densely packed, but city streets are typically less congested than county arterials and feeder streets thanks to the more even distribution of cars across a network of grid streets. That’s the theory.

However, the urban City of Richmond has experienced a higher accident rate (as expressed by automobile accidents per 1,000) than its neighbor, suburban Henrico County, so far this year. The accident rate is 13.2 accidents per 1,000 residents in Richmond compared to 9.9 accidents in Henrico.

It’s possible that the rate of the worst accidents — injuries and fatalities, as opposed to fender benders — are higher in Henrico. That’s what one might predict from the deadly-suburbs hypothesis. It stands to reason that higher posted speeds on county roads make accidents more prone to injuries and fatalities.

Alas, while the maps do display accidents resulting in injuries and deaths, the search tool does not allow users to filter specifically for those attributes. So, as a practical matter, it would be exceedingly tedious to see if the data supports the deadly-suburbs hypothesis.

Nevertheless, the DMV deserves kudos for making its accident data more accessible than it was before and for setting a positive example for other state agencies to follow. Maybe one day, the department will add a search feature that allows readers to view the raw data, filter by accident type, and select for multiple localities for side-by-side viewing. One can always hope.

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4 responses to “Yippee! Traffic Accident Stats Now Viewable Online”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    accidents have become a key metric for Smart Scale… it affects the score directly. They are also used to decide what kind of improvement needs to be made… so you’re starting to see more round-a-bouts and diverging diamonds that have a record of reduced crashes and reduced fatalities.

    VDOT is using that data also to close median crossovers…. which are a leading cause of accidents …

    FinallI AM heartened by this:

    “Textalyzer” Device Allows Police to Determine if Drivers Were Texting and Driving”


    People have become a menace …worse than drunk divers!!!

    traffic accidents are UP for the first time in decades… including fatal accidents and the evidence is indicating that idiots playing with their cell phones while they drive are the leading cause!

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Oh.. and if V N is reading here.. is THIS .. ANOTHER example of govt central planning?

  3. […] estimable Jim Bacon has found and reported a DMV site with maps that show traffic accident […]

  4. UpAgnstTheWall Avatar

    I can’t get the map to replicate your results and I’m too lazy to get a TREDS login, but I’ll posit a theory as to why the accident rate in Richmond is higher than it is in Henrico: the sight lines in the city neighborhoods, particularly the fan, are abysmal – they’re the worst of anywhere I’ve ever driven and so many of those interchanges are unsignalized but not four-way stops. Basically any time you’re on a side street and want to cross Grove, Cary, Main, Floyd, etc. you’re taking your life into your own hand because the city – in an attempt to placated suburbanites who move in but don’t want to give up their cars – let people park all the way up to the damn intersection. It’s a real problem and one that as time goes on and the city – hopefully – teaches residents how to operate an urban environment without a car the local government puts some more parking regulations in place. As it stands now, the Fan is a nightmare and Church Hill is going to be playing catchup soon enough.

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