County site maps car wrecks

Suffolk County Accident Tracking Web site

A New York county unveiled a Web site this month that maps where traffic injuries and fatalities have occurred in the hopes of making a dent in the thousands of car accidents that happen there every year.

Suffolk County, home to about 1.5 million people on the eastern half of Long Island, developed the accident tracking site to help the public and policy makers better understand the frequency, severity and location of such accidents.

Annually, about 35,000 accidents are reported to Suffolk's police district — and that excludes some towns in the eastern end of the county. County legislator David Bishop came up with the Web site idea as a way to bring focus to the problem. He successfully sponsored legislation needed to create the site, which will be updated at least every week, if not daily.

"It's really a movement toward open government and communication and using the Internet as a vehicle for that," said Bishop, who's been a legislator for the past 10 years.

The site, which was developed in-house by the county Management Information Services Department, integrates police accident data with geographic information systems. Only accidents resulting in injuries or deaths are entered on the site, otherwise the map would become too unwieldy, he said.

On the site, blue dots symbolize injuries and red dots denote fatalities. Users can select a region or drill down to view their own street, or even search according to a particular intersection, town or date. The map information includes the date and time the accident occurred, its specific location, and whether it resulted in an injury or death.

During the application's development, Bishop said he and aide Ray Zaccaro, who live near each other, were both "astounded" by how many accidents had occurred in their own neighborhood.

"Not by any means are we saying we're a dangerous driving county. We don't know that," Bishop said. But he said the site is a good way to draw attention to problems and empower residents and elected officials to make decisions about them. An example of a future enhancement to the site, he said, could include accident data involving drivers under the influence of alcohol, but he added nothing has been discussed.

In developing the site, Zaccaro said he surfed the Web extensively for similar sites. He said he found only sites with lists of traffic accident data, but nothing that plotted them on a map.

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