In a bid to increase transparency and communication about traffic safety, the Mountain View Police Department announced plans last week to regularly release data on all collisions occurring throughout the city.
The move is the latest in a series of reporting policy changes aimed at giving Mountain View residents a clearer picture of where crashes happen, and where bicyclists and pedestrians are more likely to be struck by a vehicle.
Previous changes included reporting on all collisions regardless of whether anyone was injured, as well as a recent data dump that included all collisions on both public and private property going back to January 2017.
Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the Voice that the new initiative is not just an opportunity to be transparent with the public, but a chance to educate residents with public service-style messages about following the rules of the road. The department's Friday, Aug. 10, announcement, for example, came with a short animated video detailing how police handle a crash investigation.
"The more the public can easily find the data, for those who are interested, the more we hope residents will directly interact with us and ask us their questions regarding collisions, safety initiatives and more," Nelson said.
The latest round of data shows there have been 357 collisions during the first half of 2018, about one-third of which resulted in injuries. This is a decrease from the 398 crashes that occurred over the same period in 2017. A total of 159 people were injured in the first six months of the year, and none resulted in a fatality.
Among the crashes, 24 involved a bicyclist -- which is on pace with prior years -- while nine involved a pedestrian, significantly fewer than the 24 pedestrian collisions over the same six-month period in 2017. At least one person was injured in all of the pedestrian collisions and in 20 of the 24 bicycle collisions.
Some of the busiest intersections in the city remain the most dangerous, with the intersection of El Camino Real, Grant Road and Highway 237 leading with 18 crashes so far this year, according to department data. Other high-crash intersections include West Middlefield Road and Highway 237 (15), Central Expressway and Rengstorff Avenue (8), W. Middlefield Road and Shoreline Boulevard (7), Central Expressway, Moffett Boulevard and Castro Street (7) and El Camino Real and Sylvan Avenue (7).
As with past data releases by the department, many of the primary causes and traffic violations for collisions are listed as unknown or left blank. Of the 194 that have reasons cited, 37 collisions were caused by unsafe speeds, 24 were caused by red light violations, 17 were caused due to driving on the wrong side of the road, and 25 were caused by combination of failures to yield by vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
For 20 of the crashes, a misdemeanor or felony DUI was listed as the primary cause of the collision.
Although the department has followed state reporting requirements for collisions on public roadways, the public-facing information on the city's website had previously been limited to bicycle and pedestrian incidents that were listed on Mountain View's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) web page. Mountain View police took a decidedly different approach earlier this year by publishing information on all vehicle crashes for 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, but police officials told the Voice in an email that they wouldn't continue the practice -- citing BPAC members's lack of interest in data unrelated to bike and pedestrian crashes. The Voice was required to make formal requests for the data under the state Public Records Act.
Although the announcement last week may sound like a policy reversal, Nelson said the department's intent is to always move toward transparency and accessibility of collision data. Residents are encouraged to give feedback on the information and the way it's presented, she said.
"Discussions on how to best present readily available and understandable traffic data to the public are always conversations we are having, not just between us here at MVPD, but with the public as well," Nelson said in an email.
The latest round of traffic safety statistics came with a healthy dose of advice: with children heading back to school this month, police are asking drivers to avoid blocking crosswalks and access to campuses.
"Do not run stop signs, and do not speed, even if you are late," the announcement said. "We, and other residents, do not tolerate violations that can and do hurt others, so please, be cordial, be patient and be safe."