LEBANON, Tenn. - Highway Patrol Lieutenant Jeremy Austin has had a big role to fill. He has been in charge of the enforcement plan for his troopers in Wilson County. But how do you know where to put your patrol officers, and when?
Austin has been using special software called TITAN.
“Having it all combined in this model right here at me makes it so much easier,” he said.
The software tells him where crashes could happen and when based on past crashes, weather and special events. There’s even a separate model that looks at DUI arrests, locations that serve drinks and past alcohol-related crashes.
And it’s easily accessible from the cars of the more than 600 troopers who patrol Tennessee roads. THP reported last year it correctly predicted where accidents would happen 72 percent of the time.
“It gives me the opportunity to give a higher amount of protection to the public with the same amount of resources,” said the head of the Highway Patrol, Col. Tracy Trott.
Lieutenant Austin showed NewsChannel 5 a problem spot which appeared red on the screen in a 6-by-7 mile block. Low risk areas appear blue.
“It dips down from noon to four to 35 percent which I’m not worried about, then it comes back up now at about four o’clock,” he said, pointing out the probabilities based on the time of day.
He took the crew there and sure enough they spotted reckless driving during rush hour.
“He's doing 86, 87 [miles per hour]” Austin said, pointing out a speeder. Normally, he would pull the driver over and write him or her a ticket. With the news team in the car the driver got a rare pass.
Before implementing the software in a pilot program in 2013, troopers would respond to crashes after they happened. But the software has helped put troopers in high risk areas so they can write tickets to people showing risky behaviors. They said it helps prevent crashes before they happen.
“It’s proactive instead of reactive,” Austin said.
And when accidents do happen the software has helped troopers position themselves so they're closer to where they're needed when lives are on the line.
“Sometimes minutes matter in a bad crash or serious accident,” said Col. Trott.
And as other southern states have watched their crash fatalities climb, Tennessee has been on track to possibly see its lowest year for fatalities ever. As of July 15 there were 461 traffic fatalities on Tennessee roads. That was down by 36 from this time last year. And 2014 was already a big improvement on past years in the state.
“Something is working here in Tennessee,” Col. Trott said.
He said while other law enforcement agencies have used similar analytics to predict crime, Tennessee has been the first in the country to use it for accidents. And he’s getting inquiries from other department heads across the country, taking notice.
The software’s initial cost was $265,000. The Department of Transportation and Governor's Highway Safety Office footed the bill along with grants. Troopers have been sharing all their data with TDOT.