Improving traffic safety by using Open Data
Belgium is in search of the right Open Data to thoroughly evaluate and improve its traffic policies, according to data scientists Kasper van Lombeek and Pietjan Vandooren. Brussels is both known for its art nouveau buildings and for traffic jams. The same goes for many other Belgian cities. Government organisations implemented several measures to decrease the number of traffic accidents. However, how do public bodies know whether for instance a speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour does indeed improve road safety?
Currently, the right data seems to be missing in order to answer these types of questions. In effect, the public sector would benefit from integrative online dashboards. Such platforms would help users, in particular policy-makers, get a better understanding of traffic information. More importantly, analysing and visualising data in such a way helps to evaluate the effectiveness of policy measures. Good Open Data based initiatives do exist, such as the accident map of the Federal Police and the traffic safety barometer from the VIAS (the former Belgian Road Safety Institute).
Still, these sources do not display the full picture necessary to assess policy effectiveness. Complete and consistently measured data on the type of traffic jams, accidents and casualties (involving cars, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) would be needed to do so. As the Flanders Traffic Control Center and Agency for Roads and Traffic intensified their focus on Open Data in 2017, a path is created towards fact-based policies and establishing safer roads.