Idaho’s FARS activities impress visitors

Idaho’s successful Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recently gained new friends from across the state’s western border.

Representatives from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission visited ITD’s Office of Highway Safety Oct. 16, 17 to learn how Idaho manages its FARS program and ties it into highway safety data.

They met Deborah Dorius, who is in charge of Idaho’s FARS system, and went away impressed with ITD’s state-of-the-art ability to receive and track crash data in a paperless format.

“They wanted to improve their transition to a completely paperless reporting system by looking at MDE (Microcomputer Data Entry) tools, how Idaho deals with paperless coding and the flow process of its reporting system,” Dorius said. “Idaho is one of a few states in the nation that has gone 100 percent paperless with its crash reports.”

Mimi Nickerson and Terry Ponton spent much of their time in Idaho shadowing Dorius and sharing ideas.

She added that Nickerson and Ponton provided her with an example of a quarterly newsletter the Washington Traffic Safety Commission distributes to its FARS users. She hopes to use it as a model for a similar Idaho edition.

Dorius sifts through a variety of reports, files, data and statistics in her position as Idaho’s FARS analyst, searching for information that can be coded and submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA). Dorius provides a detailed accounting to NCSA of all of the people killed on Idaho roadways.

Once accepted by the FARS national database, the statistical information is used to provide an overall measure of highway safety, to help identify traffic safety problems, to suggest solutions and to help evaluate the effectiveness of motor vehicle safety standards and highway safety programs.

“The accuracy of FARS reporting is very important to me.” Dorius said. “People rely on this information for a variety of reasons. Better data strongly supports our on-going safety messages and our ‘Towards Zero Deaths’ strategic plan for Idaho roadways.”

Dorius took over as Idaho’s FARS analyst last summer after long-time analyst Joan Benzon retired.

“Joan had done a lot of hard work to make Idaho’s FARS program a model program,” Dorius explained. “I hope to keep up with what she did and find ways to improve it.”

Published 11-8-13