Urban sprawl as a risk factor in motor vehicle crashes

Urban Studies
By: , and 



A decade ago, compactness/sprawl indices were developed for metropolitan areas and counties which have been widely used in health and other research. In this study, we first update the original county index to 2010, then develop a refined index that accounts for more relevant factors, and finally seek to test the relationship between sprawl and traffic crash rates using structural equation modelling. Controlling for covariates, we find that sprawl is associated with significantly higher direct and indirect effects on fatal crash rates. The direct effect is likely due to the higher traffic speeds in sprawling areas, and the indirect effect is due to greater vehicle miles driven in such areas. Conversely, sprawl has negative direct relationships with total crashes and non-fatal injury crashes, and these offset (and sometimes overwhelm) the positive indirect effects of sprawl on both types of crashes through the mediating effect of increased vehicle miles driven. The most likely explanation is the greater prevalence of fender benders and other minor accidents in the low speed, high conflict traffic environments of compact areas, negating the lower vehicle miles travelled per capita in such areas.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Urban sprawl as a risk factor in motor vehicle crashes
Series title Urban Studies
DOI 10.1177/0042098014562331
Volume 53
Issue 2
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Sage Journals
Publisher location Beverly Hills, CA
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 20 p.
First page 247
Last page 266
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details