Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Transportation safety, road fatality analysis, international policy analysis, panel data modeling, macroeconomics factors, gasoline prices

Major Advisor

Dr. Norman Garrick

Co-Major Advisor

Dr. Carol Atkinson-Palombo

Associate Advisor

Dr. Ling Huang

Associate Advisor

Dr. John Ivan

Field of Study

Civil Engineering


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


One of the most significant costs associated with automobile travel is the number of road accidents and fatalities that this type of transportation incurs. Road fatalities in almost all developed countries have decreased over the last four decades. However, the rate of change varies tremendously from country to country. The discrepancy in road fatality records has been widely noted but there is no comprehensive sense of the contributing factors. Accordingly, the overall goal of this study is to develop a more comprehensive understanding of disparities in road fatality, and to assess the extent to which various potential contributing factors affect the observed differences between countries.

To achieve a more consistent understanding of all potential determinants of road safety we developed a conceptual framework based on an extensive review of the literature on the social, economic and environmental factors that have been demonstrated to affect traffic fatality .This framework was tested using a series of empirical econometrics models. These models are based on data from 1990 to 2010 for 16 developed countries including the US. The thesis is based on three main strands of analyses. First, we assess the factors affecting variations in absolute traffic fatality rate, then we investigate factors contributing differences in the rate of change of fatality over time, and finally we evaluate road fatality from the point of view of different age cohort in different countries.

In the first analysis, we used panel data modeling to understand the main determinants of the level of road fatality rate. We used the comprehensive conceptual framework to select our variables in the empirical models. The results suggest that improvements in health conditions in different countries have had the largest impact on the long-term decline in traffic fatality. Also, the results indicate that fluctuations in gasoline prices and unemployment rate are two of the main underlying cause of the cyclical patterns observed in the road fatality rate.

In our second analysis, we developed a multi-step method to create two different road safety indices. By comparing these two sets of indices, we captured the effect and the role of country specific factors such as differences in infrastructure, policy, enforcement, mode share, and driving habits on the changes in road fatality rates. The results suggest that the USA has made limited progress relative to other countries in terms of addressing these important factors. In comparison, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have performed much better in terms of these factors.

Lastly, we analyzed fatality rates for different age cohorts in developed countries. The findings showed tremendous variations in road fatality rates (in terms of the absolute values and the rates of improvement over time) among different age cohorts. Benchmarking analysis revealed that it is not just the so-called SUN (Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands) countries that are doing well. These SUN countries have frequently been identified has having superior performance in terms of traffic safety. However, our more detailed analysis looking at different age groups show pockets of superior performance in other countries including Switzerland, Germany and Japan for specific age groups. Finally, the results reveals that Children (0-14 years old) and Seniors (+65 years old) in the US, fared very poorly relative to their peers in other countries.