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11/21/2006 - Collective Responsibility in Freeway Rear-end Collisions - An Application of Causal Models

Determining whether an event caused a traffic incident often involves determining the truth of a counterfactual conditional, where what did happen is compared to what would have happened had the alleged cause been absent. A new approach has recently been developed that uses structural causal models to rigorously formulate and answer questions of causality. This approach is proving to be especially well-suited to the reconstruction and analysis of traffic incidents.

This talk will present an application of these new methods to the analysis of freeway rear-end collisions. Starting with video recordings of crashes, trajectory information was extracted and used to estimate initial speeds, following distances, reaction times, and braking rates. Using Brill’s model of rear-end collisions it was then possible to simulate what would have happened had certain driver reactions been other than what they were.

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