Assessing the risk of secondary crashes on highways

Hong Yang, Kaan Ozbay, Kun Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction The occurrence of "secondary crashes" is one of the critical yet understudied highway safety issues. Induced by the primary crashes, the occurrence of secondary crashes does not only increase traffic delays but also the risk of inducing additional incidents. Many highway agencies are highly interested in the implementation of safety countermeasures to reduce this type of crashes. However, due to the limited understanding of the key contributing factors, they face a great challenge for determining the most appropriate countermeasures. Method To bridge this gap, this study makes important contributions to the existing literature of secondary incidents by developing a novel methodology to assess the risk of having secondary crashes on highways. The proposed methodology consists of two major components, namely: (a) accurate identification of secondary crashes and (b) statistically robust assessment of causal effects of contributing factors. The first component is concerned with the development of an improved identification approach for secondary accidents that relies on the rich traffic information obtained from traffic sensors. The second component of the proposed methodology is aimed at understanding the key mechanisms that are hypothesized to cause secondary crashes through the use of a modified logistic regression model that can efficiently deal with relatively rare events such as secondary incidents. The feasibility and improved performance of using the proposed methodology are tested using real-world crash and traffic flow data. Results The risk of inducing secondary crashes after the occurrence of individual primary crashes under different circumstances is studied by employing the estimated regression model. Marginal effect of each factor on the risk of secondary crashes is also quantified and important contributing factors are highlighted and discussed. Practical applications Massive sensor data can be used to support the identification of secondary crashes. The occurrence mechanism of these secondary crashes can be investigate by the proposed model. Understanding the mechanism helps deploy appropriate countermeasures to mitigate or prevent the secondary crashes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143.e1-149
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Crash risk
  • Highway
  • Rare event logistic regression
  • Secondary crash
  • Traffic safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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