A Stochastic Model for Highway Accident Predictions with Winter Data

Chen Lin, Michael Jong Kim, Viliam Makis*
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, 5 King's College Road, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G8, Canada.

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© 2013 Lin et al.;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, 5 King's College Road, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G8, Canada.Tel:+1 416 9784184; Fax:+1 416 9787753; E-mail:


In this paper, we consider the problem of modeling and predicting highway accidents in the presence of randomly changing winter driving conditions. Unlike most accident prediction models in the literature, which are typically formulated in a static (e.g. regression models) or discrete time (e.g. time-series models) setting, we propose a continuoustime stochastic model to describe the relation between highway accidents and winter weather dynamics. We believe this to be a more natural way to describe discrete-event highway accidents that occur in continuous-time. In particular, the accident counting process is viewed as a non-homogeneous Poisson process (NHPP) with an intensity function that depends on a (Markovian) weather process. Such a model is known in the stochastic process literature as a Markovmodulated Poisson process (MMPP) and has been successfully applied to queuing and telecommunications problems. One main advantage of such an approach, is its ability to provide explicit closed-form prediction formulae for both weather and accidents over any future time horizon (i.e. short or long-term predictions). To illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed stochastic model, we study a large winter data set provided by Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) that includes motor vehicle accidents on Highway 401, the busiest highway in North America.

Keywords: Highway accidents, Winter driving conditions, Stochastic modeling.