By: Ramin Arvin
While the cost of crashes exceeds $1 Trillion a year in the U.S. alone, the availability of high-resolution naturalistic driving data provides an opportunity for researchers to conduct an in-depth analysis of crash contributing factors, and design appropriate interventions. Although police-reported crash data provides information on crashes, this study takes advantage of the SHRP2 Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) which is a unique dataset that allows new insights due to detailed information on driver behavior in normal, pre-crash, and near-crash situations, in addition to trip and vehicle performance characteristics. This paper investigates the role of pre-crash driving instability, or driving volatility, in crash intensity (measured on a 4-point scale from a tire-strike to an injury crash) by analyzing microscopic vehicle kinematic data. NDS data are used to investigate not only the vehicle movements in space but also the instability of vehicles prior to the crash and their contribution to crash intensity using path analysis. A subset of the data containing 617 crash events with around 0.18 million temporal trajectories are analyzed. To quantify driving instability, microscopic variations or volatility in vehicular movements before a crash are analyzed. Specifically, nine measures of pre-crash driving volatility are calculated and used to explain crash intensity. While most of the measures are significantly correlated with crash intensity, substantial positive correlations are observed for two measures representing speed and deceleration volatilities. Modeling results of the fixed and random parameter probit models revealed that volatility is one of the leading factors increasing the probability of a severe crash. Additionally, the speed prior to a crash is highly correlated with intensity outcomes, as expected. Interestingly, distracted and aggressive driving are highly correlated with driving volatility and have substantial indirect effects on crash intensity. With volatile driving serving as a leading indicator of crash intensity, given the crashes analyzed in this study, early warnings and alerts for the subject vehicle driver and proximate vehicles can be helpful when volatile behavior is observed.