FHP hopes computer data can improve highway safety

Signal Four Analytics collects data from all accidents statewide

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FHP Capt. Keith Gaston

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Highway Patrol -- the agency that respond to and investigates most of the fatal accidents on Florida's roads -- is beginning to analysis accident data in hopes it will lessen the number of highway fatalities.

FHP Capt. Keith Gaston was doing graduate work at University of North Florida with another FHP officer they learned about a high-tech system that could track trends. Gaston decided this same technology could track crash data.

"Many people had thought about it. The key was, how do you do it; how do you organize it?" Gaston said.

Early every morning, the web-based program called Signal Four Analytics now housed at University of Florida updates data from accidents statewide and makes information from basic collision facts to more detailed details available to traffic investigators.

"Ten years down the road I see this type of system being used to make vehicles safer, to make us smarter in the way we drive," Gaston said.

Law enforcement officers can search up to 300 pieces of information, including time of day, location, driver's age and sex, where the vehicle was impacted. 

In the three months it's been in place, the computer has compiled data from 911,622 crash reports.  The project is so valuable, the FHP office in Jacksonville hired a person just to research the database.

"We knew that we needed it for a long time. (There) just wasn't the technology there to make it feasible to do it," Gaston said.

Gaston hopes this technology can reduce the number of serious accidents by using the crash information to better patrol problem spots and prevent crashes from happening.

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