After the Webinar: Reducing Traffic Fatalities. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenter James Williams and Ken Clary answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Reducing Traffic Fatalities in Urban and Rural Areas: Notes from the NIJ’s LEADS Program.    Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: Ken, I think you might have discussed this but the question is when do you expect to have the final findings from the study? 

Ken Clary: I just spoke to Dr. Koper via email yesterday. We’re going to start crunching numbers this month for year one. We’re going to have a presentation at IACT this year on Tuesday afternoon so look us up out there. We should be presenting preliminary findings from year one there. Our crash stats aren’t validated until April. It’s probably going to be around this time next year before our study is completed on year two. If people want that information, feel free to send me their contact information I’ll be glad to give it to you as it comes in.


Audience Question: Gary, what are you looking for in terms of LEADS scholars? Do you have to have any special education or do you need to have already attained a certain degree in order to be able to be a LEAD scholar? What’s the scoop? 

Gary Cordner: Sorry, had the mute button on. Most people want to mute me. There are no hard and test requirements. The most important factor is genuine and keen interest in helping develop the police profession through using studies, research, and science in figuring out what works best and how to do things better. It does help if the applicant has some demonstrative experience either doing a study in their own agency. Many times, it’s a study that somebody did as part of their schoolwork or partnering with different researchers to do some kind of a study. Not as hard requirement. You can get in somehow. The standards are not that high



Audience Question: James did you see a lot of change in the hotspots from one 12-week time period to the next? 

James Williams: Yeah. Several of them. The first time that we did this it was just the one hotspot. It was a really noticeable and significant change. The most recent time we’ve done it where we expanded trying to do seven hotspots and having a schedule all at once. It was a little bit harder to see that change. To be honest, I was surprised when we started analyzing the crashes and saw that it was such a significant reduction in crashes across the board except for that one hotspot. You can definitely see the change for the better.



Audience Question: How did you determine what was considered a high number of crashes for each of these hotspot areas? 

James Williams: That is kind of a difficult part. I went back and looked pretty significantly at kind of the, I guess, the history of the areas. I looked at the hotspots for each precinct where we had high numbers of crashes along roadways. Some of them weren’t that high, week to week. You kind of had to expand your time, look back a year instead of six months to kind of see what a high week is and whether it was truly a hotspot or not. I ended up eliminating a couple of places that just had some abnormal weeks that were skewing stuff just a little bit.



Audience Question: If the audience wanted to replicate either of your studies depending on the sense for their jurisdictions, what’s going on and how to improve things. What steps would you recommend for them to take first to get started? 

Ken Clary: Depending on your jurisdiction, I would argue James’ area may be a little easier to identify the patterns. Get the largest data set that you can and find the data experts to help you wade through it. I work directly with our Department of Transportation. They are wonderful partners in helping me identify and map this out. The second thing I would tell you to do is get a great academic partner. I’m a cop. I’ve been a cop for 25 years. Although I continue to study, I’m not an academic. Let them help you design your study. Let them help you make sure it’s valid and reliable and reproducible so that whatever finding you have is actually something that can be used by multiple people. Those are two pieces of advice I would give.

James Williams: I was going to say something very similar. I think the biggest thing for me that helped me the most was finding for us the Department of Safety and the Department of Transportation. They were more than willing to share the data that they have that was easier to analyze on their end than it was for us within the police department. They were more than happy especially once we told them what we were doing to help us out and provide any resources that they could. Find out who can help you and ask for the help – there are plenty of smarter people than me out there that can help with that.



Audience Question: A long-time research like these projects takes a little bit of socialization. How did you convince your command staff, your leadership and even the officers who participated in the study? How did you convince everybody or get them to be so willing to support the experiment and the study? 

Ken Clary: I ‘ll jump into this one first. I started as a cop. I drew up my idea on a whiteboard and told it to my colonel first. I knew I was not able to do it without his support. Once I got his buy-in, I sold it to our area commanders. I worked my way down the chain. I needed them to understand what it was I was going to be doing. Then I went to each of my districts. I have overseen 4 district offices. I went around and I told them about the project but not only the project, what it was that we were going to be doing but the science behind it. I’ve truly believed that officers want to do things that are going to make a difference. Oftentimes it is hard to measure the things that don’t happen. How do you measure deaths that don’t occur? The easiest way to do it or the only way to do it perhaps is to study what it is you do to show that it is making an impact then be able to show them why it is making that impact. I did that. I went around to each of the districts, sold them on the science behind it and then I let them sit on it for a couple of weeks. I went back, talked about it again and asked for volunteers, I had more volunteers than I needed at that point. You got to get buy-in at each level. Buy-in at each level. It’s not an easy lift. If you are going to take this on, know that it’s a lot of footwork. You have to be invested in it.

James Williams: I agree 100% with Ken. Initially, I was asked by my supervisor. It was a kind of an open-ended question. We’re having a lot of crashes, what can we do about it? Came up with this plan but I knew it wouldn’t work unless I got the officers to buy-in. Really as I was going through the drafts of the plan I would send it the officers that I knew would be helping out on this first. Hey, this is what I’m thinking. Again explain the science. This is why I’m thinking of doing this, do you think it will work? Do you think that it is something that can be beneficial? Making sure I had that buy-in before then going and selling it back up the chain. Once you’re in a project, I think I sold my chain of command with this last one when I showed them the results and one of the first things I highlighted is that in one of the hotspots it didn’t work. I told them why. If you’re open with everything and admit when something doesn’t work, that goes a long way as well.



Audience Question: Could you both say again what were the sources of your information for that pool of raw data that you both collected. I thought I caught some but I want to make sure we knew. Where did you get the information for your crash data? 

Ken Clary: Mine came through our Department of Transportation. All of the law enforcement entities in the state of Iowa are required to submit their crash data into the Department of Transportation so they’re the ones that house it. I worked with our Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau to help us extract that information out of it.

James Williams: It’s similar here in Tennessee. It’s everyone reports their crashes to the Department of Safety and they are the ones that house all that data. Internally, we have the copies of all reports that we do that are sent to those state. We had some access to them but we were just not able to do the analysis state-wise. I think if you can figure out whether it’s Department of Transportation or whatever department within your state-level houses all that data, that will be a wealth of information.



Audience Question: Have you used any of your data and the findings may be the preliminary findings there for you Ken. Have you started to use any of your data to create like a public announcement or start doing a public education campaign teaming up with your PIOs to really start educating the population, do what we want them to do? Slow down, put the phone down all that kind of good stuff. 

James Williams: Yeah. We’re actually kind of before we get to that the results have really – we’re going to change the way our traffic section works. We’re going to make some changes internally to our structure, to make it easier for us to do this enforcement more regularly. Once we have that in place we’ve already talked with our PIO and how we can get more of the education out there to go along with the enforcement.

Ken Clary: I would echo that. We constantly and I know our law enforcement partners out there listening, you constantly are putting public service announcements out about wearing your seatbelt and not drinking and driving, drive sober or get pulled over kind of things. What I found that makes difference to teach your officers that 30-second elevator speech. Give them stuff that they can give to the public because it’s easy to ignore that 30-second commercial but when you’re stopped on the side of the road or you’re having engaged in a conversation in a convenience store with a trooper and they are telling you, hey the 6% of people that aren’t wearing their seatbelt makes up 46% of deaths on the roadway, those are stats that really get home and they reverberate. We are our best salespeople and we have not empowered ourselves to deliver that message. That’s what we are trying to do with this project that we are doing. It’s a different way to deliver the message but I found it to be effective so far.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Reducing Traffic Fatalities in Urban and Rural Areas: Notes from the NIJ’s LEADS Program.



Additional Resources