What if you had an interactive tool that could help you stay safer on the road and give safety organizations a better picture of street safety?
The University of California’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) has spent the last nine months collecting data for just that tool –Street Story.
What is Street Story, and why does it change the narrative around street safety? For one thing, it provides an avenue to collect data in problem areas.
What Is Street Story?
Street Story is more than an accident tracker. It’s a community engagement tool and an interactive online mapping tool.
It allows users, whether they’re community residents, community groups, or traffic organizations, to collect data about near-misses, general transportation hazards, and collisions.
The idea is to focus less on cars or trucks (the common focus of traffic data collection) and instead gather information to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety in real-time.
To promote widespread usage, Street Story is publicly accessible and completely free to use.
The biggest feature of Street Story is a survey where users can record their travel experiences. When several users put information into the survey, it becomes easier to spot problem zones for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Why and How was Street Story Created?
SafeTREC had two goals in building it:
Giving community members a place to report problems
Allowing researchers to collect hard-to-get data
Near misses, for example, may not result in a crash or injury. On the one hand, this is good news for everyone involved. On the other hand, this means that there is no historical record of the incident.
And if several near-misses occur in the same area, public safety organizations may not know it because there is no record of these incidents.
Street Story was created because people can provide rich qualitative data through stories. For the user, this allows them to let off steam. For researchers, this data demonstrates public safety issues that may not have been visible otherwise.
The program was created by the people, for the people. It was designed at UC Berkeley through SafeTREC, but relied on significant input from the community, outreach organizations, city and county agencies, and safety experts.
Using Data in Community Engagement
Let’s say you’re trying to strengthen your safety efforts for your truck drivers and your local employees. Street Story can help you garner the community engagement to do it.
Community engagement allows you to plan your long-term transportation efforts while also developing needs assessments.
First, you have to decide who you want to hear from and what you want to hear about. Your focus community can be broad or highly specific, but you have to know who they are and what information you want from them. The good news is that Street Story provides demographic information so you can see if you’re hearing from the right crowd.
From there, you need to appeal directly to your focus community. Share the news of your efforts through media outlets that your target audience is likely to access – and in the languages they speak.
It also helps to partner with trusted organizations like advocacy groups, social services, and community leaders. Be where your focus group is and engage with them directly–they’re more likely to engage with you if they feel some sort of personal connection to your efforts.