Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jun Yan (Director), David Keeling, Kevin Cary

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


With increasing levels of motor vehicle ownership, automobile crashes have become a serious public issue in the U.S. and around the world. Knowing when, where, and how traffic accidents happen is critical in order to ensure road safety and to plan for adequate road infrastructure. There is a rich body of literature pertaining to time-related fatal crashes, most of which focuses on non-spatial factors such as a driver’s visibility at night, drinking and drug use, and road conditions. These studies provide a theoretical basis for understanding the causes of crashes from a non-spatial perspective, and a number of traffic laws and policies consequently have been enacted to minimize the impacts of non-spatial factors. Over the past few years, advances in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have greatly enhanced our ability to analyze traffic accidents from a spatial perspective. This study aims to fill a void in traffic safety studies by comparing and analyzing the differences in the spatial distribution of fatal crashes based on temporal factors, specifically in three periods: 1) day and night; 2) A.M. rush hours and P.M. rush hours; and 3) weekdays and weekends. With the Nashville Metropolitan Area as the study area, the research utilized a number of spatial point-pattern analysis (SPPA) methods, including planar KDE, planar global auto K function, network global cross K functions, and network local cross K functions. All fatal crashes in the Nashville area were found to be clustered and generally follow the patterns of average daily traffic flow. All time-based subtypes of fatal crashes also were found to be concentrated within the central urban area of Nashville, mostly along major roads, and especially near major road intersections and highway interchanges. No notable spatial differences were detected among the subtypes of fatal crashes when applying network global cross K function. However, with the help of the network local cross K function, some localized spatial differences were identified. Some specific locations of hotspots of nighttime and P.M. rush hour fatal crashes were found not to be at the same locations as those at of daytime and A.M. rush hour fatal crashes, respectively. The approach adopted in this study not only provides a new way to analyze spatial distribution of spatial point events such as fatal crashes, but it also can be applied readily to real-world applications. A good understanding of where these spatial differences are should help various agencies practice effective measures and policies in order to improve road conditions, reduce traffic accidents, and ensure road safety.


Geographic Information Sciences | Geography | Physical and Environmental Geography | Urban Studies and Planning