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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis
SD2005-14


Title: Improving Motor Vehicle Crash Reporting on Nine South Dakota Indian Reservations
Project Researcher: Polly Quick,
Project Manager: Dave Huft
Research Period: 6/1/2006 - 10/31/2008
Status: Approved
Cost: $64,999.00

Problem Statement:The South Dakota Department of Public Safetys Office of Highway Safety inconsistently receives reports of motor vehicle crashes from tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police departments on Indian reservations. Sometimes crash reports are not prepared or are not prepared correctly. Other times, crash reports are prepared but are not submitted to the Office of Highway Safety. The percentage of crashes actually reported is unknown, but estimates range from 5 to 70%, depending on location.

The lack of reliable crash data results in lost funding for tribes and BIA that could be used to correct safety hazards, improve roads, or promote traffic safety. It reportedly also results in lost or delayed insurance payments for individuals because they have difficulty obtaining crash reports when their vehicles are involved in motor vehicle crashes. Most importantly, opportunities to save lives and injuries are lost because data that could help identify factors contributing to motor vehicle crashes are unavailable.

Several factors have been suggested as potentially contributing to this problem:

  1. shortage of experienced law enforcement staff, resources, and training;

  2. varying crash reporting policies among tribal administrations;

  3. limited availability of electronic databases and other information technology;

  4. concerns about ultimate uses of crash data and potentially negative impacts to tribal members;

  5. concerns about driver privacy;

  6. lack of clarity or understanding of state reporting requirements;

  7. conflicting requirements by the State of South Dakota and the Bureau of Indian Affairs;

  8. differences in crash investigation and reporting protocols;

  9. poorly established networks of communication among agencies;

  10. inadequate institutional arrangements between state and tribal agencies.

Other factors may also apply, but until the extent of the problem is determined and contributing factors are accurately identified, significant improvements to crash reporting are unlikely.

Importance: Motor vehicle crashes are known to be a leading cause of death for Native Americans. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Controls WISQARS (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars), the crude death rate for motor vehicle crashes for all races in South Dakota for the years 2000-2002 was 24.19 per 100,000 population while it was 73.92 for the Native American/Alaska Native population. (This data is based on ICD-10 codes from death certificates.) In other words, Native Americans/Alaska Natives die at three times the rate of all other South Dakotans due to motor vehicle crashes.

Findings:

Research Objectives:
1  To describe and evaluate crash reporting practices used on the nine Indian reservations with lands in South Dakota.
2  To identify barriers to complete and accurate reporting of crashes on reservations.
3  To recommend practical ways to improve the completeness and accuracy of future crash reporting on reservations.
4  To improve the completeness and quality of crash data reported to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety from the nine reservations in calendar year 2005.

Research Tasks:
1  Meet with the project's technical panel to review the project scope and work plan.
2  Conduct interviews and site visits with staff of tribal offices, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety, and the South Dakota Department of Transportation to identify crash data needs and to
3  From results of the interviews and site visits, make a preliminary assessment of the availability, quality, and usability of crash data from the nine Indian reservations with lands in South Dakota.
4  From the results of the interviews and site visits, identify best crash reporting practices as well as barriers to complete and accurate crash reporting.
5  Prepare a technical memorandum and meet with the project's technical panel to review results of tasks 2-4.
6  From the examination of available crash reports and databases available on each of the nine reservations, develop estimates of current reporting rates and rates that might be achieved through improved procedures.
7  From crash reports and databases available on each of the nine reservations, identify calendar year 2005 crash reports that could be, but which have not yet been, submitted to the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety. In cooperation with local autho
8  Develop recommendations for practical changes in procedures, protocols, cooperative agreements between agencies, staff levels, training, information technology, and any other significant factors to improve the completeness and accuracy of future cras
9  In accordance with the Guidelines for Performing Research for the South Dakota Department of Transportation, prepare a final report summarizing the research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
10  Make an executive presentation to the South Dakota Department of Transportation's Research Review Board and the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen's Health Board at the conclusion of the project.

Documents Available:
SD2005-14.Final_Report.pdf
SD2005-14.Executive Summary.pdf

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