New Data-Driven Enforcement Hits Redwood City Streets

Over the next six months, the department will step up enforcement in four major intersections and analyze the data collected on a monthly basis, according to police.

By Bay City News Service: 

A strategy that uses analysis of some of Redwood City's more dangerous areas have led the city's traffic enforcement officers to step up patrols at four key intersections, police said this week.

Redwood City police Chief JR Gamez said that a new multi-dimensional, citywide approach to traffic collision management will hopefully change driver behavior and reduce the number of crashes on city streets.

 "Our department remains committed in its efforts to continually monitor unsafe driving patterns through the use of existing and emerging enforcement technologies," Gamez said.

 A key component to the effort is a computer analysis program called Crossroads that combines both traditional and technical data-driven strategies, such as traffic and collision reports and DUI stats, to identify problem areas.

 The analysis program will gauge frequency of activity in a particular location and will identify changes in patterns that might contribute to an increase or decrease in crashes.

 Based on the data already collected, police have identified four specific intersections that have seen a recent rise in traffic collisions and will begin to monitor the sites more closely in the coming months.

 The identified intersections are Whipple Avenue and Veterans Boulevard, Woodside Road and Broadway, El Camino Real and Whipple Avenue, and El Camino Real and Woodside Road, according to police.

 Over the next six months, the department will step up enforcement in the four major intersections and analyze the data collected on a monthly basis, according to police.

 "We plan to look at the analysis every six weeks to start and if that doesn't work, we'll move it to two or three months to get a good read," said Deputy Chief Gary Kirby.

 Kirby called the effort a workforce commitment with the resolution being a change in driver behavior.

 "It's a process that is not super intelligent, just bare bones, but it helps us use limited resources and really focus on the probability of something occurring in one particular area over another," Kirby said.

 Kirby said the data they collect will provide basic times of incidents, the type of violation and the causes of collisions. This will allow traffic patrol teams to cater their enforcement to suit the types of infractions that cause the accidents.

 Police also hope the public will help mitigate collisions by registering traffic complaints through a new portal called myRWC. Information and sign-up instructions can be found on any smartphone's app center, according to police.

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Jim Clifford April 12, 2014 at 06:14 PM
Increased enforcement would bring in revenue. Every time I go downtown I see people walking against the light and drivers going through crosswalks that have pedestrians in them. I've spotted drivers doing this while talking on cellphones. Some people think laws are made for others, not them. Don't get me started on dog owners who walk their dogs at schools and parks that have "no dogs" signs.
Reality Check April 14, 2014 at 01:54 PM
Apart from the Woodside/Broadway intersection-zilla which is currently the subject of a major ongoing redesign effort (there was just an public info session on it at the main library), I don't see how "poorly planned" or "design shortcomings" have anything whatsoever to do with a rate of crashes due to vehicle code violations such as failure to obey traffic signals (red lights) or signs (speed limit, no turn on red, etc.). It would be helpful if any of the "poor design is to blame" folks would provide specific examples and suggested improvements. What's so hard about admitting that impatient or inattentive drivers and not the intersections are to blame for crashes?
Chip Krug April 14, 2014 at 05:38 PM
In response to Reality Check, my logic is as follows. The same "impatient or inattentive drivers" are also using these other intersections that have lower rates of collisions. Therefore I conclude that there are other contributing factors to the high rates at the intersections discussed. This is not to deny that individual driving habits are also an important factor. I prefer to approach the challenge from a social psychology and traffic design perspective. Assigning blame to individuals might change behavior as long as stepped up enforcement is maintained. If we make it a permanent policy, then that enforcement becomes an added design feature of the intersection. As far as treating this as a revenue source, well that seems to me to set up perverse incentives. Our goal is to make these safer intersections for everyone.
Reality Check April 14, 2014 at 08:21 PM
While I'd allow that two of the intersections (Woodside/Broadway & Whipple/Veterans) have design aspects that may increase crash risks, the major risk factor is sheer traffic volume and intersection complexity (width, number of lanes, number of crossing/turning movements possible). Any time you have greater volume, you have greater statistical exposure to (as you pointed out) the exact same "impatient/inattentive" drivers causing crashes. Add to that greater size/complexity, and the same less-than-perfect drivers are more likely to cause trouble at a big, busy intersection than a small, less-trafficked one. Short of traffic-calming measures to constrict and/or slow and/or downsize these intersections, there isn't much to be done to reduce crashes from a design perspective. So that leaves you with enforcement. And if you're going to spare a few officers (which is the most you can practically do) to watch intersections ... it probably makes sense to deploy them where they will see the most violations. But what's also well known in the rest of the civilized modern world that does not suffer the US's bizarre political allergy/backlash against automated enforcement, is that traffic cameras deployed and managed correctly are much more effective than having cops chase down violators like cowboys chasing down errant livestock. Have a look at this interactive traffic camera map (don't forget to zoom out!): http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/safety-and-security/road-safety/safety-enforcement-cameras
Chip Krug April 15, 2014 at 12:50 AM
To Reality Check: Wow, that is a cool map. I agree with your whole line of reasoning - bravo! It seems you've considered each intersection in more detail than I have. Still, as a designer, I long for answers that are effective and easy on the budget as well as easy on the people.


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