Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

High Ambient Temperatures and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes in Catalonia, Spain (2000-2011): A Time-Series Analysis

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

High Ambient Temperatures and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes in Catalonia, Spain (2000-2011): A Time-Series Analysis

Article excerpt


Motor vehicle crashes are an important cause of mortality and disability worldwide (Lozano et al. 2012; World Health Organization 2013). Meteorological factors such as rain, snow, fog, wind, hail, and freezing temperatures are known to increase the risk of occurrence of motor vehicle crashes (Andrey et al. 2003). The effect of heat on the risk of motor vehicle crashes, however, has received less attention. High temperatures are known to decrease human capability of performing physical and intellectual tasks (Confalonieri et al. 2007), which in turn can increase the risk of traffic crashes. A number of experimental studies have consistently documented the negative effects of heat on driving performance (Daanen et al. 2003; Mackie and O'Hanlon 1977; Walker et al. 2001; Wyon et al. 1996), but few epidemiological studies have investigated this association at the population level.

Most of the existing epidemiological studies have examined the relationship between temperature and crashes using temporal aggregations (Antoniou et al. 2013; Bergel-Hayat et al. 2013; Coutin-Marie and Torres-Vidal 2010; Malyshkina et al. 2009; Nofal and Saeed 1997; Scott 1986). Some researchers have been able to perform analyses at the national level using monthly data. In France and the Netherlands, Bergel-Hayat et al. (2013) found that a 1[degrees]C increase in the monthly average temperature was associated with a between 1% and 2% increase in the number of crashes during the same month. In the state of Indiana (USA), an analysis of weekly averages found that weeks that were classified as high-risk in terms of crashes tended to have higher summer temperatures (Malyshkina et al. 2009). In Saudi Arabia, where temperatures above 40[degrees]C are common in summer, Nofal and Saeed (1997) found that the monthly number of crashes was correlated with increased monthly temperatures. However, a previous study of precipitation and traffic crashes reported a significant positive association based on daily data, in contrast with a significant negative association based on monthly data that the author attributed to lagged effects (Eisenberg 2004). Consequently, findings from studies using temporally aggregated data should be interpreted with caution.

Only a few epidemiological studies have used daily data. Among studies using daily time series, one found that more vehicle crashes were expected when temperatures were higher than the monthly mean (Brijs et al. 2008), another found a nonlinear relationship indicating more crashes at higher temperatures (Bergel-Hayat et al. 2013), and another found no relationship (Rossello and Saenz-de-Miera 2011).

In a recent study of associations between extremely hot days and cause-specific mortality, we found a positive association with mortality resulting from traffic crashes (Basagana et al. 2011). In the present study, we aimed to expand our previous findings by evaluating the association between high temperatures and motor vehicle crashes using a separate and more comprehensive data set including all motor vehicle crashes (not necessarily fatal crashes). Furthermore, we tested our hypothesized mechanism by evaluating the associations for crashes involving driver performance.


Design. We performed a time-series analysis where the daily number of motor vehicle crashes was linked to daily temperatures while controlling for temporal trends. The study included all motor vehicle crashes resulting in human injuries or deaths that occurred during the warm period of the years 2000-2011 in the autonomous community of Catalonia (Spain). Catalonia has an area of approximately 32,000 [km.sup.2] and had a population of 7.1 million in 2006 [Statistical Institute of Catalonia, IDESCAT; http:// (in Catalan)]. The warm period was defined as the period between 15 May and 15 October, as these are the half-months with average maximum temperatures greater than 20[degrees]C (Basagana et al. …

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