Lower volumes, higher speeds: Changes to crash type, timing, and severity on urban roads from COVID-19 stay-at-home policies

New publication: Stiles, J., Kar, A., Lee, J. and Miller, H.J. (2021) “Lower volumes, higher speeds: Changes to crash type, timing, and severity on urban roads from COVID-19 stay-at-home policies,” Transportation Research Record (online first)

Abstract: Stay-at-home policies in response to COVID-19 transformed high-volume arterials and highways into lower-volume roads, and reduced congestion during peak travel times. To learn from the effects of this transformation on traffic safety, an analysis of crash data in Ohio’s Franklin County, U.S., from February to May 2020 is presented, augmented by speed and network data. Crash characteristics such as type and time of day are analyzed during a period of stay-at-home guidelines, and two models are estimated: (i) a multinomial logistic regression that relates daily volume to crash severity; and (ii) a Bayesian hierarchical logistic regression model that relates increases in average road speeds to increased severity and the likelihood of a crash being fatal. The findings confirm that lower volumes are associated with higher severity. The opportunity of the pandemic response is taken to explore the mechanisms of this effect. It is shown that higher speeds were associated with more severe crashes, a lower proportion of crashes were observed during morning peaks, and there was a reduction in types of crashes that occur in congestion. It is also noted that there was an increase in the proportion of crashes related to intoxication and speeding. The importance of the findings lay in the risk to essential workers who were required to use the road system while others could telework from home. Possibilities of similar shocks to travel demand in the future, and that traffic volumes may not recover to previous levels, are discussed, and policies are recommended that could reduce the risk of incapacitating and fatal crashes for continuing road users.

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Spotlight on Poverty: Pandemic Made Unequal Access to Food Even Worse, Study Suggests

Ohio State Geography student Armita Kar was interviewed by Spotlight on Poverty about our study of how COVID exacerbated unequal food access in low income communities. Armita is co-advised by myself and Dr. Huyen Le.

Pandemic Made Unequal Access to Food Even Worse, Study Suggests

COVID-19 exacerbates unequal food access

New publication: Kar, A., Motoyama, Y., Carrel, A., Miller, H.J. and Le, H.T.K. (2021) “COVID-19 exacerbates unequal food access,” Applied Geography, 134, 102517.

Abstract. Inequality to food access has always been a serious problem, yet it became even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated social inequality and reshaped essential travel. This study provides a holistic view of spatio-temporal changes in food access based on observed travel data for all grocery shopping trips in Columbus, Ohio, during and after the state-wide stay-at-home period. We estimated the decline and recovery patterns of store visits during the pandemic to identify the key socio-economic and built environment determinants of food shopping patterns. The results show a disparity: during the lockdown, store visits to dollar stores declined the least, while visits to big-box stores declined the most and recovered the fastest. Visits to stores in low-income areas experienced smaller changes even during the lockdown period. A higher percentage of low-income customers was associated with lower store visits during the lockdown period. Furthermore, stores with a higher percentage of white customers declined the least and recovered faster during the reopening phase. Our study improves the understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on food access disparities and business performance. It highlights the role of COVID-19 and similar disruptions on exposing underlying social problems in the US.

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