Effect of Accounting for Crash Severity on the Relationship between Mass Reduction and Crash Frequency and Risk per Crash

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Previous analyses have indicated that mass reduction is associated with an increase in crash frequency (crashes per VMT), but a decrease in fatality or casualty risk once a crash has occurred, across all types of light-duty vehicles. These results are counter-intuitive: one would expect that lighter, and perhaps smaller, vehicles have better handling and shorter braking distances, and thus should be able to avoid crashes that heavier vehicles cannot. And one would expect that heavier vehicles would have lower risk once a crash has occurred than lighter vehicles. However, these trends occur under several alternative regression model specifications.

This report tests whether these results continue to hold after accounting for crash severity, by excluding crashes that result in relatively minor damage to the vehicle(s) involved in the crash. Excluding non-severe crashes from the initial LBNL Phase 2 and simultaneous two-stage regression models for the most part has little effect on the unexpected relationships observed in the baseline regression models. This finding suggests that other subtle differences in vehicles and/or their drivers, or perhaps biases in the data reported in state crash databases, are causing the unexpected results from the regression models.

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