Nilsson's Power Model connecting speed and road trauma: applicability by road type and alternative models for urban roads

Accid Anal Prev. 2010 Nov;42(6):1908-15. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


Nilsson (1981) proposed power relationships connecting changes in traffic speeds with changes in road crashes at various levels of injury severity. Increases in fatal crashes are related to the 4(th) power of the increase in mean speed, increases in serious casualty crashes (those involving death or serious injury) according to the 3(rd) power, and increases in casualty crashes (those involving death or any injury) according to the 2(nd) power. Increases in numbers of crash victims at cumulative levels of injury severity are related to the crash increases plus higher powers predicting the number of victims per crash. These relationships are frequently applied in OECD countries to estimate road trauma reductions resulting from expected speed reductions. The relationships were empirically derived based on speed changes resulting from a large number of rural speed limit changes in Sweden during 1967-1972. Nilsson (2004) noted that there had been very few urban speed limit changes studied to test his power model. This paper aims to test the assumption that the model is equally applicable in all road environments. It was found that the road environment is an important moderator of Nilsson's power model. While Nilsson's model appears satisfactory for rural highways and freeways, the model does not appear to be directly applicable to traffic speed changes on urban arterial roads. The evidence of monotonically increasing powers applicable to changes in road trauma at increasing injury severity levels with changes in mean speed is weak. The estimated power applicable to serious casualties on urban arterial roads was significantly less than that on rural highways, which was also significantly less than that on freeways. Alternative models linking the parameters of speed distributions with road trauma are reviewed and some conclusions reached for their use on urban roads instead of Nilsson's model. Further research is needed on the relationships between serious road trauma and urban speeds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration / adverse effects*
  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • City Planning
  • Environment Design
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality