Nov 26, 2010

Assessing causality in multivariate accident models

Accident; Analysis and Prevention
Rune Elvik


This paper discusses the application of operational criteria of causality to multivariate statistical models developed to identify sources of systematic variation in accident counts, in particular the effects of variables representing safety treatments. Nine criteria of causality serving as the basis for the discussion have been developed. The criteria resemble criteria that have been widely used in epidemiology. To assess whether the coefficients estimated in a multivariate accident prediction model represent causal relationships or are non-causal statistical associations, all criteria of causality are relevant, but the most important criterion is how well a model controls for potentially confounding factors. Examples are given to show how the criteria of causality can be applied to multivariate accident prediction models in order to assess the relationships included in these models. It will often be the case that some of the relationships included in a model can reasonably be treated as causal, whereas for others such an interpretation is less supported. The criteria of causality are indicative only and cannot provide a basis for stringent logical proof of causality.

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