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Where Are The Accident Spots When A Storm Comes Through Utah? Asks One Researcher

What happens in Salt Lake County when a big winter storm comes through? That’s the basic question Richard Medina, assistant geography professor at the University of Utah, is asking.

After a 2011 snowstorm in the D.C. area, Medina looked at traffic patterns and accidents during the storm—of which there were hundreds—to identify trends and possible future dangerous spots. Now he’s analyzing similar data in Salt Lake County.

Medina said because Utah drivers are more used to driving in the snow, the patterns he saw in D.C. could be very different here.

“Whatever experience we have in driving in the snow and whatever resources we have, is probably offset by the fact that we still operate. You know, nothing really slows down here or stops,” Medina said. “So we could have the same amount of accidents, we might have more, I’m just not sure yet.”

Using accident information from the Department of Transportation which he received through a GRAMA request (Governmental Records Access and Management Act), Medina is looking at five years of accident data. He said he hopes the model he creates will be able to help people during future storms.

“If you’re an emergency responder and you can look at a predictive model like this, you can look at the real time accidents coming in if you have access to those data and identify how those patterns are shifting,” Medina said. “It could be a help for planners as well as emergency managers.”

Medina said his model may also be useful to city planners to find problem areas so they can fix issues early on, before a big storm hits.