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Crowdsourced Traffic Data Could Save Lives, Researchers Show

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Waze crash alerts occur, on average, two minutes and 41 seconds prior to their corresponding California Highway Patrol-reported crashes, according to a University of California, Irvine-led pilot study. These minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

The study, "Crowdsourced Traffic Data as an Emerging Tool to Monitor Car Crashes," is published in JAMA Surgery.

"According to our research, it takes emergency medical service units an average of seven to 14 minutes to arrive on scene after a 911 call," says Bharath Chakravarthy, vice chair of research and academic affairs for the UCI School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, and one of the researchers on the study. "Crowdsourced traffic data might help to cut that time by as much as 60 percent."

The study reports that crowdsourced data, collected by software applications like Google's Waze, are highly correlated with conventional reporting data that are often costly to collect and suffer from reporting lag-time. The ability to use crowdsourced user-generated traffic data has several immediate clinical implications for treatment and mortality rates among motor vehicle crash victims as well as for improving efficiency around emergency department operations in the United States.

"The potential is game-changing. Trauma surgeons could be notified earlier, diagnostic testing could be prioritized for crash victims, and blood and other life-saving equipment could be made available sooner," Chakravarthy says. "These pre-hospital and hospital level resources, if activated sooner, could aid in increasing quality and rapidity of patient care and potentially reduce morbidity and mortality."

Every day, more than 100 deaths and 2.5 million emergency department visits result from motor vehicle crashes, making it one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Reducing ambulance and emergency department treatment response time for crash victims could dramatically save lives.

Further research is needed on the integration of crowdsourced traffic data as a tool to monitor car crashes and reduce associated mortality, including the potential risks of implementing this approach.

Other authors of the JAMA Surgery study are Sean D. Young of the UCI School of Medicine, and Wei Wang of the Department of Computer Science, Henry Samueli School of Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles.

This pilot study was funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Human Genome Research Institute, and conducted in collaboration with the California Highway Patrol and Waze/Google.


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