A collision occurs. What next?
In San Francisco, a police officer documents the details in a collision report and the hard copy is sent to the California Highway Patrol, which compiles all accident data for the year and shares it with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Department of Public Health. The entire process takes a year and a half to two years.
"How inefficient do you think that is?" said police Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the SFMTA.
Meanwhile, agencies outside of law enforcement that need the data to push various transportation initiatives would be left waiting at least a year until the CHP released its Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System database.
That system has become a thing of the past as of a couple of weeks ago, when the Police Department began using Crossroads Software Co.'s Traffic Collision Database, a project two years in the making. Already used by dozens of law enforcement agencies across California, the database provides input and analysis within a month or two.
"We'll have this information at our fingertips almost immediately and it allows us to better plan and design the work we do to make our streets as safe as possible," said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.
The SFMTA already has Crossroads data -- designed to compile information including collision types, degree of injury and historical highs -- from January through October of this year.
"We're still working out a few bugs, but for the most part we have the same data," said Ali, adding that the Public Health Department will get access in a relatively short period of time.
Coordinating with various information technology departments has been the biggest challenge, he said.
Readily available collision data is "extremely helpful" to the Health Department in improving its educational campaigns, said the agency's pedestrian and traffic safety project coordinator, Ana Validzic. Knowing a driver's ZIP code, for example, enables officials to determine whether unsafe drivers are mostly from San Francisco or the greater Bay Area.
Other key advocates include the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF.
"The first step to fighting crime is knowing where crime is happening," said Kit Hodge, bicycle coalition deputy director.
Approximately 7,000 collisions are reported every year, according to Ali. Last year, the Police Department launched a campaign focusing on the five leading causes of collisions, but basing its findings on more recent data would help refine it, said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider.
"This is a big step forward for the field of enforcement," Schneider said.
The Crossroads database partnership with the Police Department and LexisNexis also allows the public to retrieve collision reports at www.sanfranciscopolice.org/traffic for a fee, rather than waiting in line at the Hall of Justice.