Yes, car crashes are more likely closer to home

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
It's become a sort of common refrain, that you're more likely to be in a car accident closer to your own home. But Waikato researchers have delved into the data to find out how true the accepted truth actually is: the answer, it's correct. Using data from the household travel survey and crash information reported to police, they found half of all injury-causing crashes occurred within 7 km of the driver's home, which made sense given about half of all travel was within 10 km of home. The researchers suggest a few possible reasons for the phenomenon, including 'inattention blindness' where we're less attuned to hazards on familiar routes. Alcohol was a bigger factor for near-home crashes, while fatigue played a greater role in crashes beyond 30 km from home.

Journal/conference: Safety Science

DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2017.04.009

Organisation/s: University of Waikato

Media Release

From: Elsevier


The notion that most crashes happen close to home has been repeated so often it has come to be an accepted truth. Despite this, to our knowledge there have not been any studies to date which have adequately accounted for rates of exposure in drawing conclusions concerning relative crash risk and distance from home. We addressed this gap by using data representative of all travel (from the New Zealand Household Travel Survey) and crashes in New Zealand, by New Zealand drivers, from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. Trip origins, destinations and driver home address were used to convert 31,102 trips into travel exposure on roads at increasing distance from home. Travel data were compared with crash distance from home for 6,295 injury crashes involving 9,315 drivers. Analysis showed that on average, drivers were indeed more likely to crash close to home. Roads within 11 km (6.8 miles) of home accounted for half of all travel and 62% of all crashes. The ‘close to home’ effect held for male and female drivers. Novice (learner) drivers were the only demographic subgroup to not exhibit the close to home effect. Compared with crashes further away, crashes close to home were more likely to involve alcohol and diverted attention, and less likely to involve driver fatigue. These findings provide a mandate for continued investigation into the science of typical, everyday driving. We contend that behavioural effects associated with driving on familiar roads may be a factor in injury crash risk for experienced drivers


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