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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Strategies to Improve State Traffic Citation and Adjudication Outcomes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26875.
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Page 2
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Strategies to Improve State Traffic Citation and Adjudication Outcomes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26875.
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Page 3
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Strategies to Improve State Traffic Citation and Adjudication Outcomes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26875.
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Page 4

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2 The effective management, tracking, and linking of traffic records data are critical to address- ing traffic safety. These data can be used to identify emerging trends in traffic crashes and unsafe driver behavior, to evaluate the effects of changing policies on judicial outcomes, and to improve countermeasure development and evaluation. NHTSA’s Traffic Records Program Assessment Advisory Board examines ideal data systems in six core areas: crash, vehicle, driver, roadway, citation and adjudication, and injury surveillance (NHTSA 2012). While data systems in these areas are highly interdependent, the systems often have different data elements, protocols, for- mats, personnel, and are managed by separate state agencies. This results in a lack of clear com- munication and synergy among these systems. Existing efforts have studied ways to improve the overall quality and integration of these data systems (e.g., Greer 2011; NHTSA 1976, 2011). Model Impaired Driving Records Infor- mation Systems (MIDRIS) has demonstrated how court systems, law enforcement agencies, and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records can be linked to improve impaired driving tracking and adjudication (NHTSA 2011). This can be a framework for understanding broader ways that enforcement and judicial record-keeping and tracking can be improved within states. Furthermore, most states have conducted reviews of their traffic data systems. While useful for individual states, these assessments are not centralized or directly shared among states. This research project built upon these efforts to conduct an examination of data systems and tracking procedures from citation through adjudication with the end goal of improv- ing the ability of state agencies to track citations and adjudications. The ultimate goal of this research was to improve roadway safety by helping states improve their traffic records data and integration across distinct data systems. Useful data depend on three key factors: data quality/accuracy that support drawing conclusions about traffic safety, linkage to sup- port connecting key data elements, and availability to ensure that people who need to assess data are able to access those data quickly and easily. High-quality, integrated data systems within states can support these factors to help identify emerging trends in traffic harm (e.g., increases in high-speed crashes), evaluate the impact of changing policies (e.g., the legaliza- tion of cannabis), and improve countermeasure development (e.g., assess the effectiveness of alcohol ignition interlock devices in reducing driving under the influence or DUI recidivism). Depending on the severity, traffic offenses typically involve three separate data systems—law enforcement, judicial, and DMV—each of which holds key information related to the offender and the offense (Figure 1). Ideally, these three systems would be linked statewide and readily share data back and forth throughout the entire legal process, which would facilitate the identification and tracking of problem drivers who have repeated infractions/violations for driving behaviors considered to C H A P T E R   1 Background

Background 3   be “high risk,” such as reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DUI drugs, and distracted driving. For example, drivers with prior DUI convictions are overrepresented in fatal crashes and have a greater relative risk of involvement in a fatal crash. The ideal approach to tracking such drivers requires data that specifically track all cited individuals throughout the entire legal process (including dropped or reduced charges and across all dispositions) from the time of arrest through the final disposition of the case. However, in practice, there are a number of challenges to efficient and effective data sharing. There are numerous points during the judicial process whereby charges may be reduced, pled down, or dropped completely, and often the information related to the original offense is not recorded in the driver’s file. For example, if charges are dismissed and the dismissal is not recorded in the driver’s file, the infraction/violation is wiped from the driver’s record/history. Even if charges are upheld and a conviction achieved, varying data recording/sharing practices, charge codes, and local variations may make it difficult to align and track citations across juris- dictions within a state. Tracking citations from arrest through adjudication depends on the availability of standardized, aggregated, and complete data, as well as a system for managing and accessing those data. To identify meaningful ways to improve the tracking of citation, adjudication, and disposi- tion, the project team first assessed the current state of traffic safety systems data integration and linkage across states. Through analysis of the Traffic Record Assessments (TRAs) of state agencies and in-depth interviews with state representatives, the team identified general trends and patterns related to the collection, tracking, and storage of citation and adjudication data; challenges faced by states in doing so effectively and efficiently; and successful implementa- tions by states in linking database systems among enforcement, DMV, and judicial systems. The results of this research provide a set of proposed actions and best practices that will benefit states as they move to improve citation and adjudication tracking, in the form of a usable and expandable toolkit. Figure 1. Traffic offense data systems. Source: Adapted from Smith et al., 2019.

4 Strategies to Improve State Traffic Citation and Adjudication Outcomes Objectives There were several key objectives to this research. The project documented processes, chal- lenges, and strategies related to the tracking of citation and adjudication data to support the development of a toolkit with suggestions and strategies for improvement of these processes. The central objectives were as follows: 1. Examine and document state traffic citation and adjudication tracking efforts by a. Collecting publicly available information on citation and adjudication tracking systems, b. Conducting interviews with highway officials from representative states, and c. Analyzing and synthesizing data; 2. Identify methods for improving data tracking, sharing, communication, and accessibility; and 3. Develop a toolkit of innovative strategies to improve the ability of states to track citation, adjudication, and disposition data. Project Management This project involved two phases with a total of 10 tasks that were executed over a 36-month period. Phase I of the project was dedicated to establishing the informational foundation for the development of toolkit strategies in Phase II. A kickoff meeting was conducted with the principal investigator, key members of the project team, the project panel, and the senior program officer. This meeting enabled the team to coordinate the project goals, methods, and timeline with the panel to support development of a finalized work plan. Progress was documented by monthly reports and regular meetings with the project panel and senior program officer.

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The ability of state agencies to track citation, adjudication, and disposition data accurately and effectively is essential for the identification and appropriate adjudication of problem drivers and habitual offenders. Efficient data tracking can provide benefits at all steps of the citation-adjudication process, from providing real-time information and safer roadside stops for law enforcement officers to reducing errors and improving transmission speed during the adjudication stage to facilitating data storage and effective analyses following disposition.

The TRB Behavorial Transportation Safety Cooperative Research Program's BTSCRP Research Report 5: Strategies to Improve State Traffic Citation and Adjudication Outcomes identifies challenges and barriers to effective citation data tracking along with proven strategies and solutions to address these challenges, with the goal of developing a series of practical and meaningful steps that state highway safety officials could use to implement these strategies.

Supplemental to the report is Toolkit for Improving Citation and Adjudication Tracking, which is a PowerPoint presentation with voiceover components. Slides from the toolkit are presented in Appendix D and the script for the voiceover is included in Appendix E.

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