Visual Assessment of Pedestrian Crashes


Of the numerous factors that play a role in fatal pedestrian collisions, the time of day, day of the week, and time of year can be significant determinants. More than 60% of all pedestrian collisions in 2007 occurred at night, despite the presumed decrease in both pedestrian and automobile exposure during the night. Although this trend is partially explained by factors such as fatigue and alcohol consumption, prior analysis of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database suggests that pedestrian fatalities increase as light decreases after controlling for other factors.

This study applies graphical cross-tabulation, a novel visual assessment approach, to explore the relationships among collision variables. The results reveal that twilight and the first hour of darkness typically observe the greatest frequency of pedestrian fatal collisions. These hours are not necessarily the most risky on a per mile travelled basis, however, because pedestrian volumes are often still high. Additional analysis is needed to quantify the extent to which pedestrian exposure (walking/crossing activity) in these time periods plays a role in pedestrian crash involvement. Weekly patterns of pedestrian fatal collisions vary by time of year due to the seasonal changes in sunset time. In December, collisions are concentrated around twilight and the first hour of darkness throughout the week while, in June, collisions are most heavily concentrated around twilight and the first hours of darkness on Friday and Saturday. Friday and Saturday nights in June may be the most dangerous times for pedestrians. Knowing when pedestrian risk is highest is critically important for formulating effective mitigation strategies and for efficiently investing safety funds. This applied visual approach is a helpful tool for researchers intending to communicate with policy-makers and to identify relationships that can then be tested with more sophisticated statistical tools.

Griswold, Julia B.
Ragland, David R.
Publication date: 
August 29, 2010
Publication type: 
Journal Article