Leveraging the California Highway Incident Processing System for Traffic Safety Policy and Research
Accurate data on crashes and other traffic incidents are critical for analyzing the rates, costs, and causes of crashes, and for evaluating the effects of safety policies and engineering solutions. There are two official sources of data on traffic incidents in California: 1) the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS),1 managed by the California Highway Patrol (CHP), which includes post-processed data on traffic incidents leading to human injury or death; and 2) Caltrans’ Performance Measurement System (PeMS),2 which includes data on traffic incidents as well as traffic counts, lane closures, and other information. Both databases draw from CHP incident reports that describe the location, conditions, and other important details and observations surrounding each incident. Traffic safety researchers rely heavily on both databases, but each has limitations. PeMS data are limited to state highways. Incident data can take months to appear in SWITRS and may omit crucial information.