Estimating safety performance functions for two-lane rural roads using an alternative functional form for traffic volume

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11 Scopus citations


Statistical models of expected crash frequency are referred to as Safety Performance Functions (SPFs) in the first edition of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Highway Safety Manual (HSM). The SPFs in the HSM specify expected annual crash frequencies as a function of various roadway and roadside features, with the most important predictor variable being traffic volume, which serves as a measure of vehicle exposure to crashes. Traffic volumes are typically measured using the average annual daily traffic and are incorporated into the SPFs using a natural logarithm transformation. This specification suggests that the relationship between expected crash frequency and traffic volume increases non-linearly with a constant elasticity over the range of observed values. While researchers concur that the relationship between expected crash frequencies and traffic volume is non-linear, further exploration of the functional form of this relationship may offer additional insights concerning the association between safety performance and vehicle exposure. This paper proposes an alternative functional form for the traffic volume variable in SPFs that allows for different elasticities between traffic volume and expected crash frequency within different traffic volume ranges, while preserving the same general non-linear relationship in existing HSM SPFs. Although other forms—like the Hoerl function—have been proposed in the literature, the proposed model allows for natural breakpoints in the traffic volume for which roadway or geometric features might have varying effects on low- or high-volume roads. The proposed functional form was applied to SPFs developed for two-lane rural roadways in Pennsylvania. Comparisons with SPFs developed using the traditional and Hoerl functional forms suggest that this proposed functional form offers an improved fit and predictive performance, and thus might be considered for the development of future SPFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106173
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Law
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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