8B.2 Relationship Between Precipitation and Traffic Fatalities: A High-Resolution Comparison

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 1:45 PM
613 (Washington State Convention Center )
Scott E. Stevens, CICS, Asheville, NC; and S. Saha and J. E. Bell

Much investigation has been done into the impact of weather on traffic safety, but most studies are limited in space and time to large-scale events that take place over days.  Due to limitations in data and the discontinuous nature of precipitation, little work has been done on a more instantaneous and localized scale.  The development of a high-resolution radar-based precipitation estimate allows us to examine the incidence of precipitation at very nearly the exact time and location of any given event, in the hopes of quantifying the effect of precipitation on the prevalence of fatal accidents.

By matching fatal traffic accidents across the contiguous United States over a six-year period from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) with radar-based precipitation estimates from the newly-development National Mosaic and Multisensor Quantitative Precipitation Estimate (NMQ/Q2) reanalysis, we examine the frequency of accidents which occur during observed precipitation, compared to the climatological frequency of precipitation in that area.  In the absence of a relationship, one would expect these frequencies to be approximately equal, simply by random chance.  A significant departure from the expected frequency gives cause for suspicion of a causal relationship.

In all climate regions and 40 of 45 examined states, the frequency of crashes that occur during precipitation is significantly higher than would be expected in the absence of any relationship, from a 9% difference in the Northeast to a 51% difference in the Northwest.  These results hold true when controlling for time of day, season, and other risk factors such as alcohol and drug involvement.

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