Public health

Title: Estimating the effect of air pollution on road safety using atmospheric temperature

Organisation: The London School of Economics and Political Science
Date uploaded: 6th February 2017
Date published/launched: October 2016

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This research suggests there is a link between air pollution levels and an increase in traffic collisions.

Published in October 2016, the research found that ‘small increases in the level of nitrogen dioxide in the air’ are correlated with ‘a measurable rise’ in the number of traffic accidents in the UK.

The results, based on data for the period between 2009 and 2014, show that a rise in the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide of just one microgramme per cubic metre is sufficient to increase the average number of accidents each day by 2%, with the biggest effect occurring in cities.

Although the research cannot identify the link, the author of the report, Lutz Sager, suggests it could be down to impairing drivers’ fitness.

Sager’s analysis divided the UK into a grid of 32 areas each covering about 7,700 square kilometres. He calculated that in the area containing west London, which suffers from some of the highest levels of air pollution, a cut of about 30% in the concentration of nitrogen dioxide could reduce the number of road accidents by almost 5%.

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