Effect of a new motorway on social-spatial patterning of road traffic accidents: a retrospective longitudinal natural experimental study

09 Oct 2017

Background: The World Health Organisation reports that road traffic accidents (accidents) could become the seventh leading cause of death globally by 2030. Accidents often occur in spatial clusters and, generally, there are more accidents in less advantaged areas. Infrastructure changes, such as new roads, can affect the locations and magnitude of accident clusters but evidence of impact is lacking. A new 5-mile motorway extension was opened in 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. Previous research found no impact on the number of accidents but did not consider their spatial location or socio-economic setting. We evaluated impacts on these, both locally and city-wide. Methods: We used STATS19 data covering the period 2008 to 2014 and describing the location and details of all reported accidents involving a personal injury. Poisson-based continuous scan statistics were used to detect spatial clusters of accidents and any change in these over time. Change in the socio-economic distribution of accident cluster locations during the study period was also assessed. Results: In each year accidents were strongly clustered, with statistically significant clusters more likely to occur in socio-economically deprived areas. There was no significant shift in the magnitude or location of accident clusters during motorway construction or following opening, either locally or city-wide. There was also no impact on the socio-economic patterning of accident cluster locations. Conclusions: Although urban infrastructure changes occur constantly, all around the world, this is the first study to evaluate the impact of such changes on road accident clusters. Despite expectations to the contrary from both proponents and opponents of the M74 extension, we found no beneficial or adverse change in the socio-spatial distribution of accidents associated with its construction, opening or operation. Our approach and findings can help inform urban planning internationally