Exploring factors influencing the strength of the safety-in-numbers effect
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAccident Analysis and Prevention. 2017, 100 75-84. 10.1016/j.aap.2016.12.013
Several studies have found a so-called safety-in-numbers effect for vulnerable road users. This means that when the number of pedestrians or cyclists increases, the number of accidents involving these road users and motor vehicles increases less than in proportion to the number of pedestrians or cyclists. In other words, travel becomes safer for each pedestrian or cyclist the more pedestrians or cyclists there are. This finding is highly consistent, but estimates of the strength of the safety-in-numbers effect vary considerably. This paper shows that the strength of the safety-in-numbers effect is inversely related to the number of pedestrians and cyclists. A stronger safety-in-numbers is found when there are few pedestrians or cyclists than when there are many. This finding is counterintuitive and one would expect the opposite relationship. The relationship between the ratio of the number of motor vehicles to the number of pedestrians or cyclists and the strength of the safety-in-numbers effect is ambiguous. Possible explanations of these tendencies are discussed.