RAC Foundation helps code for safer roads

07/01/2021

The RAC Foundation, in partnership with Leeds University, has published a self-help training manual for the use of the statistical programming language R for road safety analysis.

It commissioned the manual from Dr Robin Lovelace, associate professor of transport data science at the renowned Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies.

The Foundation said that R allows users to code analysis for reproducible research, ‘reproducible in the sense that others can check and verify it as well as borrow, share and adapt it to their own work’.

It added: ‘Analysts can also repeat their own work as fresh data becomes available – there’s no need to recreate the wheel for each iteration of same analysis on new data. The openness, efficiency and power of working in R offers the opportunity, if taken, to improve how road safety analysis gets done, and we think this manual is great way to get you started.’

The manual covers installation, setup, the basics of the language, packages, getting STATS19 (police casualty) data, GIS functions, data visualisation, and handling dates and times, ‘alongside stories of how professionals have learnt R themselves and incorporated it into their own analytical workflows’.

The Foundation said the manual takes the reader from no R experience to being able to do the regular tasks of a road safety analysis entirely using R. It described it as ‘accessible enough to be useful to the newcomer, but detailed enough for the experienced user to use as a reference’.

It said: ‘With the rapid developments of data and data science in the road safety sector, it is vital that road safety analysts are able to develop the skills and methods needed to take road safety data and do more with it, more easily, more affordably, more efficiently and more readily.’

In the foreword to the manual, John Wilkins, deputy director of the Department for Transport’s Statistics Travel and Safety Division, wrote: ‘We commend this book to all those who wish to conduct analysis of road traffic collisions and use analysis to help save lives on our roads.’

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