Deadly Companion on Desert Road

Country/area: Jordan

Organisation: Al-ghad Newspaper -Jordan, also on Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ)

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 1 Dec 2020

Credit: Ethar AlAzem

Project description:

a data- driven Investigative story which shows how dangerous a vital highway is for road users in Jordan, because of th mixing heavy Trucks and cars use it with no separate lanes, the story gives evidence that allowing those vehicle to travel together on this heavy-traffic highway, will make it more dangerous, and will result in more deaths, the story is published in critical time,as the government recently cancelled the construction of a third lane in one of the directions, which was supposed to separate cars from trucks in the “new road”. it was based mainly on dataset that the

Impact reached:

This Investigation story provides the first dataset of fatal accidents reported on this vital highway in Jordan, which could be a data reference for Journalists and Experts, as the sample includes 60 % of death cases that resulted from the fatal accidents on this heavy traffic road in the last three years, mostly collected from scattered data available on the internet (mainly from police press-release archives for road accidents, police official pages on twitter and facebook, police radio podcasts )

So far no direct impact was observed, government departments responsible for road construction and truck licensing didn’t respond to requests to interview, nor answer the questions sent later.

Techniques/technologies used:

Google Advanced Research

Scraping (Import.io, Workbench data,Tabula)

Microsoft Excel

Geolocation (Google earth, Google Maps) for more location analysis, so it was useful to divide the road into differrent sections depending on variation in traffic flow, and then each road accident in dataset was assigned to the corresponding section (i.e:  where it was reported), and so this helps to to show the most dangerious sections on road.

Creating Interactive Maps /Google map, Map Hub(ARIJ website) to show the geographical location of each section.

Visualization (Tableau): 12 interactive infographs.

Analyzing videos (archived) for road accidents that were published by the media in the past three years ( manual transcription because no audio transcription tool supports arabic with good result.

Analyzing photos ; examine category of vehicle (truck, bus, car, etc), accident type (crash,rollover), any details about location, time of the day. etc).

What was the hardest part of this project?

1- The hardest part of the work was to scrape data from archives of an outdated-technology websites of governmental departments, collect and analyze heavy accidents reporting on multiple official pages with no unified terminology to describe events, vehicle type, or accident outcome, even for departments of the same ministry, this make tracking cases (road accidents )  one by one a neccesatiy, by searching for it and compare the details of each one between all sources  for more accuracy, also analyzing photos was important (posted by police official pages on facebook) to extract data, locating the  geographical positions of accidents (i.e in which section of the road happened),so we can point to the the highest-risk section.

2- Another difficult task was to locate accurately the geographical site of the accidents,regarding the section where they took place, and that means comparing analyzing photos, videos, comparing accidents that happened on the same date, so no duplicate inputs would be included.

What can others learn from this project?

1- lack of published official data is not always an obstacle to write an investigative data- story, and it must not stop journalists from investigating a public issue, especially in developing countries, where the “right for information” is not well-founded as a democratic practice; a good advice is that although government departments publish aggregate data of little use, but it seems they publish heavily and instantly on social media, and that offers possible alternative source to find non- aggregative official data, instead of websites and formal publications, dig there, believe me it is a big mine.

2- If there is no data for the story, examine the web carefully, try to stitch each piece of information with the other, that will help you to build a data set which leads to reliable results. This task can be achieved with the help of many technical tools that are developed constantly, so always try to explore them.

Project links:






الطريق الصحراوي ( انقر السهم لمزيد من التفاصيل ) – www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1sDgR25hr3_66ZIkp5PRbU0BIcaT8pUEZ&usp=sharing