Safety First


I'm just back from moderating a session on data at an automotive safety conference sponsored by Edmunds.com. It was a fascinating and enlightening experience to be talking about data from the perspective of the end-user, and I highly recommend that other data publishers do this as well.

 

A few random comments on the conference I'd like to share:

 

First, never take end-user perspectives on data quality for granted. I spent the entire conference hearing about some remarkable, decades-long initiatives to gather safety data, right alongside end-users bemoaning the lack of even better and more accurate data. The great irony for me is that these safety professionals are so far ahead of the healthcare industry in terms of developing evidence-based best practices that I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Yet that is exactly the point: data quality is in the eye of the beholder.

I learned about a program called US RAP that is rating the nation's highways based on their safety characteristics and producing a score. A leading provider of in-car navigation systems is interested in overlaying this database. Yes, soon you'll be able to select either the fastest route or the safest route to a destination. Hopefully, they'll be one in the same, but if not, which one would youchoose?

 

Perhaps the most thought-provoking presentation was by Ben Hamilton-Baille, a UK-based architect and urban designer who presented some fascinating case studies that removing all traffic controls (e.g. stop and yield signs, traffic lights) from intersections actually made them safer. The concept is that by purposely introducing ambiguity to certain traffic situations, drivers are forced to exercise higher levels of caution. While the audience was fascinated by the presentation, their reaction was likely the same as yours ("that would never work in the United States").

 

I also noted that Edmunds.com clearly reaped huge benefits from this conference in terms of visibility and thought leadership in its industry. Bringing together industry experts along with top government officials (for example, David Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Congressman John Dingell of Michigan) clearly confirmed Edmunds.com as a well-connected player in Washington and the auto industry generally, while simultaneously giving a boost to the critical work of many auto safety experts.

 

And with so many people on the roads for this upcoming holiday weekend, it seems doubly appropriate to wish everyone safe travels.

 

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