Modeling Traffic Accidents at Signalized Intersections in the City of Norfolk, VA

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The main objective of this research was to study the signalized intersection in a city to delineate intersection geometry and design factors which may be contributing to traffic accidents. The City of Norfolk was selected for this study since it is one of the largest and oldest cities in the Hampton Roads region; and is home to roughly quarter million people. In 2006 the Hampton Roads had the highest crash incidents in the state based on the millions of VMT (vehicle mile traveled) (Nichols, 2007). The City of Norfolk contributed roughly 17% of those crashes with annual traffic accident count of approximately 5,400.

The literature review shows that road design factors could impact traffic safety. Several highway engineering factors like lane widths, shoulder widths, horizontal curvature, vertical curvature, super-elevation rate, median, auxiliary lane, etc. are estimated based on some traffic safety considerations. Additional factors like road signage, vegetation, line sight of signal especially on horizontal and vertical curvature, and number of driveways have also been reported to have impact on the traffic safety. To study the impact of these factors along with traffic control rules, researchers have utilized variety of statistical models. The most often used model is multivariate regression where the dependent variable is generally based on traffic accidents and a set of independent variables including roadway design, traffic control, demographic variables, etc. The negative binomial model is used to account for large variability among the accident rates on different intersections. Research results show relationship exists between the various roadway design and control factors and traffic accidents. Research also indicates divergences on the importance of individual factor on the traffic safety. There is reported difference based on the regional demographic factors indicating regional accident rate differences due to interactions between design/control factors and local driving population. This study was designed to understand the impact of the road design factors on the traffic accident rate in a local area.

This study was preceded by a pilot study conducted in the City of Norfolk for signalized intersections (Maheshwari and D'Souza, 2008). An intersection accident was defined as any accident occurring within the 250' of the intersection. The pilot study results showed that intersection topography/design factors and traffic control rules have positive relationship with the traffic accident rate. These factors included number of driveways, pedestrian crossing, and presence of physical median. Despite indicating number of positive relationships, the pilot study results could not be generalized as the sample size was very small. A sample of ten intersections was selected based solely on the accident rate. Also, the pilot study model was not validated for other intersections in the City. Hence, it was logical to further investigate the impact of topographical and other controllable factors on the traffic accidents with an expanded sample size and validate the model using other intersections within the City.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Automobile accidents contribute to staggering amount of property damage and large number of deaths in United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute, New York (Hot Topic and Issues Update: Auto Crashes, 2006), 42,636 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2004 alone and an additional 2,788,000 people were injured. There were over 6 million police reported auto accidents in 2004. It is reported that about 50% of crashes occur at the intersections (Hakkert & Mahalel, 1978; National Highway R&T Partnership, 2002). It has been reported extensively in the literature that traffic volume is the major explanatory factor for traffic accidents (Vogt, 1999). However, studies have been carried out showing that design and other related factors contribute towards 2% - 14% of accidents. …