Jacksonville Grads Honored For Tops in the Nation on Crash Map Study

By Benjamin Cox on July 26, 2023 at 11:24am

The plot map of all of the locations of vehicle crashes in Jacksonville between 2017-2022.

Two Jacksonville High School graduates were honored by the Jacksonville School District 117 Board of Education last week for representing the school on a national scale.

Rachel Lay and Grace Newman were seniors when they took first place in the ArcGIS Online Competition for U.S. High School and Middle School Students. The competition sponsored by Esri, a geographic information system software company, asks students to conduct research on something geography related in their home state.

JHS Geography teacher Jim Chelsvig says the two young women put in several hours of hard work and dedication amid a lot of competition: “They were selected from over 30 states and over 400 entries. This collection of maps is the result of the last part of our GIS 2 course at JHS. These two seniors – now graduates – completed a story map focusing on [automobile] accident distribution in Jacksonville from 2017-2022. This was a project that combined the contributions of our Jacksonville Police Department, our mayor, and officials working for the Illinois Department of Transportation. It is the result of hard work, creativity, and follow through.”

Chelsvig told the board of education that on June 15th that Lay and Newman participated in a video conference call with national leaders explaining the project. You can view the complete presentation at this site.

Lay and Newman explained in a 3-minute presentation given during the video conference call about the implications of having a stop sign at an intersection. The story map is outlined to show that there is a significant statistical relationship between stop signs and vehicle accidents. The results of the study show that if there are more stop signs, the safer the intersection will be. The map outlines over 2,000 accidents in the 5-year period studied.

The pair identified several areas that show a high number of accidents in comparison to their traffic volume, including the south entrance to the downtown square, and the intersections of West College Avenue and Park Street, West College Avenue and South Church Street; West Lafayette Avenue and North Prairie Street, and Walnut and North Main streets.

Since the completion of the project, the intersection of West College and Park Street has had a stop sign installed by ordinance by the Jacksonville City Council to help decrease the number of car crashes at that intersection.

Both hope that the information contained in the project will help officials identify problematic areas of their communities and fix those problems.

This is the first time a GIS project at the high school has been honored as tops in the nation.