The best of the government blogosphere

The FBI's new crime fighters: Just the apps, ma’am; Don’t read this while driving; Good news about the friendlier skies.

The FBI’s New Crime Fighters: Just the Apps, Ma’am
CIO.gov

The FBI is enlisting smart phone users by the tens of thousands in its efforts to track down fugitives and terrorists and rescue missing children.

An application developed by contractor NIC in coordination with the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs lets users pull up information and photographs from the FBI’s lists of most wanted suspects and its missing children database.

Approximately 930,000 iPhone, Droid and Palm Pre users have downloaded the app since it went online in February, according to a post on the CIO.gov Innovations page.

The app is an extension of widgets the FBI developed in 2007 to enable users to embed links to the FBI directly into their own websites.

“When NIC saw our widgets page, they realized they could use the content we were already delivering through widgets and RSS feeds to create an app,” Michael Lilly, chief of the Online/Print Media Unit in the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs, told CIO.gov.

FBI officials are also stepping up efforts to reach the public through various social media outlets, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. A new video about the ongoing search for D.B. Cooper, a fugitive who disappeared in 1971, invites viewers to send tips to the agency’s field office in Seattle.

Don’t Read This While Driving
Kansas Department of Transportation
Oct. 10, 2010

It’s frustrating to think that many of the 34,000 deaths on U.S. roadways in 2009 were avoidable if only people used more care and common sense while driving. With public education remaining one of the best ways to reduce the unnecessary carnage, transportation and law enforcement officials in Kansas recently turned to blogging and social media tools such as FaceBook and Twitter to spread awareness about traffic safety.

The Kansas Department of Transportation hosted 20 days of guest-written daily blogs about traffic safety, leading up to the Oct. 10 national Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. Not surprisingly, the most compelling write-ups were the heartbreaking stories from people who had lost family members to careless, drunk or distracted drivers.

There were also eye-opening statistics such as the ones mentioned by Steve Rust, safety coordinator at the Kansas Turnpike Authority. “If you travel at 75 mph for 10 miles and the speed limit is 65 mph, you only save one minute and 14 seconds. Is that worth doubling your risk of dying in the event you had a crash?” Rust wrote. “If you drive 85 mph, you save two minutes and 11 seconds, but you are four times more likely to die in the event you had a car crash.”

And one entry by Sandy Horton, sheriff of Crawford County, demonstrated how effective those public education campaigns can be. Informed that his county's seat belt compliance rate of 54 percent was the lowest of the 20 Kansas counties surveyed in 2008, Horton launched a school-based program that sought to educate teenage drivers. Now, two years later, the county's seatbelt compliance rate is 77 percent. And Horton reported that in May, June and July, there were eight rollover crashes in the county involving teens as drivers or passengers but all the teens involved were wearing seatbelts and only three received minor injuries.

Good News About the Friendlier Skies
Transportation Department
Oct. 13, 2010

The Transportation Department’s “Fast Lane” blogger is crowing about the results of a recent report showing dramatically fewer cases of airline passengers being stranded on the tarmac for an extended time.

The report found that during the busy travel months of May through August, passengers experienced tarmac delays of more than three hours just eight times. That is compared to 529 in the same period last year, a 98 percent drop.

The change is the apparent product of a Transportation policy that went into effect in April that requires airlines to return passengers to the terminal if a flight cannot leave in a timely fashion.

Although they are pleased with the report, Transportation officials aren't getting cocky just yet, especially with the coming change in season. Although the numbers look good so far, “it may be too soon to declare victory for aviation consumers,” the blogger writes. “We know that winter weather often presents its own challenges to our aviation system.”

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