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Letter: 6 Ways Waze Falls Short for Traffic Reports

"Its information is routinely bad, imprecise and not relevant," says a reader

In this letter to the editor, a reader responds to Paul Kaminski’s recently-published article “Traffic Reporting in the Age of Waze.” Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].

Here at KBUU(LP) in Malibu, I have been doing live traffic reports for the Santa Monica Mountains region during morning drive for nine years. And before that, I was an assignment editor at LA TV stations for 30 years.

Let me tell you how wrong Waze and the other automated apps can be.

First, they misread data. When a road is closed, as often happens out here, they read the lack of traffic as “smooth sailing”… sometimes for hours or even days.

Second, Waze does not display the direction of heavy traffic. A crash affecting a freeway in one direction will show up on Waze as affecting both directions.

Third, Waze apparently relies on some sort of human being to draw red and white hash marks over closed roads. These are frequently incorrect, and very often the hash marks are not removed until 12 to 24 hours after the road has actually been reopened.

Fourth, Waze does not factor in things that cannot be detected electronically, such as a reporter’s phone call to the sheriff to ask how long a road closure might exist. Or a glance at the TV chopper live shot showing that the downed power pole blocking a major route is actually a minor problem will likely be cleared up very quickly. Or a tip from a listener.

[Check Out More Letters at Radio World’s Reader’s Forum Section]

Fifth, Waze does not factor in fire department dispatches. When traffic is affected by an incident, checking the fire department dispatches can tell you how long the road will be closed. Detours out here mean a two hour drive around, and sometimes it’s better for drivers to just hang tight. If it looks like it was a small housefire that closed the road, waiting is better than going all the way around.

Sixth, Waze reports of crashes are only as good as the drivers clicking the buttons on their phones. Particularly on freeways, this is very random. I can watch the CHP deal with a crash on their dispatch log at a certain interchange, describing exactly where it is, and the Waze crash alerts are miles away.

Waze is very good for one thing and one thing only, and that is a first alert. Its information is routinely bad, imprecise, and not relevant.
– Hans Laetz
Owner, GM and morning news anchor at KBUU(LP)
Malibu, Calif.