Modeling accident frequencies as zero-altered probability processes: An empirical inquiry

V. Shankar, J. Milton, F. Mannering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

275 Scopus citations


This paper presents an empirical inquiry into the applicability of zero-altered counting processes to roadway section accident frequencies. The intent of such a counting process is to distinguish sections of roadway that are truly safe (near zero-accident likelihood) from those that are unsafe but happen to have zero accidents observed during the period of observation (e.g. one year). Traditional applications of Poisson and negative binomial accident frequency models do not account for this distinction and thus can produce biased coefficient estimates because of the preponderance of zero-accident observations. Zero-altered probability processes such as the zero-inflated Poisson (ZIP) and zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) distributions are examined and proposed for accident frequencies by roadway functional class and geographic location. The findings show that the ZIP structure models are promising and have great flexibility in uncovering processes affecting accident frequencies on roadway sections observed with zero accidents and those with observed accident occurrences. This flexibility allows highway engineers to better isolate design factors that contribute to accident occurrence and also provides additional insight into variables that determine the relative accident likelihoods of safe versus unsafe roadways. The generic nature of the models and the relatively good power of the Vuong specification test used in the non-nested hypotheses of model specifications offers roadway designers the potential to develop a global family of models for accident frequency prediction that can be embedded in a larger safety management system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-837
Number of pages9
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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