Cruiser software speeds up accident reports in Ohio

Computerized system will cut the time in turning around accident reports from weeks to days.

By James Nash
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While technology can't make traffic collisions go away, it can make it much quicker and easier for drivers to get official documentation of crashes.

The State Highway Patrol replaced the old pen-and-paper method of diagramming accidents this summer with a fully computerized system that will cut the time in turning around accident reports from weeks to days.

Before June, troopers' sketches of accidents were scanned into a computer system, approved by a supervisor and then made available to drivers, their insurance companies and other interested parties. The process took four to six weeks.

Now, troopers key in accident data on laptop computers in their cars, drag icons around the screen to re-create an accident scene and upload the report onto a centralized database. They even swipe drivers' licenses through the computer to capture driver information instantly. The process takes less than a week to turn around reports, patrol officials said.

"What's neat about this system is no matter where you took the crash report, it's in the (computer) server," Sgt. Toby Smith said. "If you wanted to research the system and look at someone's crash, you could actually download it and look at the crash and see what they're doing. It's so versatile."

The state paid $673,878 to Vision Tek Mobile Inc., a Colorado company that develops software for police agencies, to license the program for 1,750 patrol computers. The agreement covers computers in each of the 1,100 patrol cruisers, plus patrol posts and headquarters.

State patrol officials say the system should reduce the amount of time troopers spend filling out accident reports -- typically a half-hour to an hour for handwritten documents -- thereby freeing up time for enforcement. Although the system has been in place for about three months, patrol officials did not have statistics on how long it takes to compile accident reports electronically.

"It's getting better and better by the day," said Lt. Tony Bradshaw, patrol spokesman.

The system also is expected to make it easier for patrol officials to track trends on accidents, although they already tracked the causes of accidents electronically.

With a few keystrokes and by dragging icons around a computer screen, troopers can diagram even complex accidents involving multiple vehicles, trees and other objects, and roadway hazards such as ice. There's even an icon for a flipped-over truck.

Copyright 2007 The Columbus Dispatch

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