Estimating the Safety Effects of Congestion Warning Systems using Carriageway Aggregate Data

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Is it possible to use just aggregate carriageway data for the evaluation of congestion warning systems (CWS) in large networks—or any system affecting traffic safety for that matter? In this paper, two hypotheses related to this question are tested. The first hypothesis is that it can be done by comparing large-scale congestion patterns on road stretches with and without CWS. The underlying rationale is that heterogeneous congestion patterns with many disturbances, frequent wide moving jams, and large speed differences result in more potentially unsafe traffic conditions than more homogeneous congestion patterns. The second hypothesis is that it is possible to compare differences in average (maximum) deceleration distributions into congestion waves between road stretches with and without CWS. Both hypotheses have been tested for similar bottlenecks with similar demand patterns and the results suggest the first hypothesis must be rejected. Although the idea seems plausible (CWS result in more homogeneous congestion patterns) there were too many confounding factors in the data to make the case. However, persuasive evidence was found for the second hypothesis. Statistically significant differences were found between (maximum) deceleration distributions on road stretches with and without CWS that suggest CWS do—as expected—contribute positively to traffic safety. It thus seems to be possible to monitor safety effects using just average speeds. However, the method is limited to providing relative comparisons. Furthermore, to fully rule out the effects of unobserved factors, more evidence and validation with microscopic data are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-288
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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