Computerized Crash Reports Usability and Design Investigation
Principal Investigator(s):Nichole Morris, Director, Mechanical Engineering
Project summary:Electronic crash reports are advantageous because they can limit missing data and transcription errors and overcome the limitations of a single sheet of paper. Advancing electronic reports through user-centered design affords an opportunity to improve law enforcement officers' (LEOs) ability to accurately, timely, and efficiently document crashes. Minnesota's commencement of a new crash records database offered a unique opportunity for a redesign of its electronic crash report to best support LEOs. A well-designed electronic report will not only support LEOs in the line of duty but will also lead to more useful, complete, and accurate data for various state and federal agencies for analysis and policy decision making.
The objectives of this project were to 1) improve crash data reliability and validity, 2) develop a framework crash report interface based on human factors principles and usability requirements, and 3) reduce the mental workload and required steps for users. Project tasks included heuristic and hierarchical task analysis, cognitive walkthroughs, validity and reliability testing, interviews, beta testing, and usability testing. The human factors principles and user-centric approach led the iterative design process to produce a product with high levels of usability and intuitiveness. The project featured a cooperative approach among university researchers, state agencies, and a private developer to ensure that the knowledge, design, and results of the research effort werer fully transferred into the final product. The resulting interfaces preliminarily suggest improved user satisfaction, along with data completeness and accuracy, and provide a resource for replication in multiple domains. This project is the first known of its kind in the United States to apply an in-depth usability practice in a statewide interface.