Do Motor Vehicle Crashes Arise from Single or Multiple Unique Risk Processes? An Inquiry into Crash Causes and Modelling
Crashes at any particular transport network location consist of a chain of events arising from a multitude of potential causes and/or contributing factors whose nature is likely to reflect geometric characteristics of the road, spatial effects of the surrounding environment, and human behavioural factors. It is postulated that these potential contributing factors do not arise from the same underlying risk process, and thus should be explicitly modelled and understood. The state of the practice in road safety network management applies a safety performance function that represents a single risk process to explain crash variability across network sites. This study aims to elucidate the importance of differentiating among various underlying risk processes contributing to the observed crash count at any particular network location. To demonstrate the principle of this theoretical and corresponding methodological approach, the study explores engineering (e.g. segment length, speed limit) and unobserved spatial factors (e.g. climatic factors, presence of schools) as two explicit sources of crash contributing factors. A Bayesian Latent Class (BLC) analysis is used to explore these two sources and to incorporate prior information about their contribution to crash occurrence. The methodology is applied to the state controlled roads in Queensland, Australia and the results are compared with the traditional Negative Binomial (NB) model. A comparison of goodness of fit measures indicates that the model with a double risk process outperforms the single risk process NB model, and thus indicating the need for further research to capture all the three crash generation processes into the SPFs.