Documenting the Effects of Collisions on Travel Behavior Among Vulnerable Populations

Research Team: Prashanth Venkataram (lead), Jesus Barajas, and Dan Sperling

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: The last five years in California have seen annual averages of over 3,800 fatalities, nearly 15,900 serious (but not fatal) injuries, and over 233,100 minor injuries from vehicular collisions. These collisions disproportionately occur in marginalized neighborhoods and victimize people from socioeconomically marginalized groups, including people with disabilities. Despite the physical injuries and mental traumas that collisions can inflict upon victims, loved ones, emergency responders, and even otherwise unrelated bystanders, little is known about the effects of collisions on their travel behavior, such as frequency of travel and mode choices. Hypothetically, decreases in travel frequency could significantly harm socioeconomic equity, as victims or loved ones who travel less may participate less in the economy as workers or consumers, and these effects may be amplified for people with disabilities, who already face disadvantages with respect to access and mobility. Additionally, changes in mode choices, especially away from public or active transportation toward private vehicular transportation, may undercut Caltrans’s connected goals for road safety, equity, and greenhouse gas emission reduction in the California Transportation Plan 2050, Caltrans 2020-2024 Strategic Plan, and California 2020-2024 Strategic Highway Safety Plan.

Project Description: This study aims to answer: (1) How do experiences with collisions or near misses affect travel frequencies and mode choices among people with disabilities? (2) Do experiences with collisions or near misses correlate with people being less likely to use certain vehicular modes (e.g., driving, riding as a passenger, or using taxis, ridehailing services, or paratransit) compared to those without such experiences? To answer these questions, this project will use informal interviews, focus groups, and a survey. The research team will work with community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout California, especially those that advocate for people with disabilities, who are disproportionately vulnerable to collisions, as well as those which advocate for road safety in socioeconomically marginalized communities. Informal interviews and focus groups with representatives from those CBOs will help the researchers better understand issues facing people experiencing collisions and near misses, what questions may be too sensitive or problematic to ask such people, and policy challenges. Following these discussions, the research team will survey adults in California about their current frequencies of using different modes of transportation, firsthand or secondhand experiences with collisions or near misses, the extent to which those experiences have influenced their mode choices, their neighborhood type, and demographic, socioeconomic, and disability status. Findings will contribute to formulating policies for roadway safety, transportation equity, and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $25,000