What is the relationship between traffic density and the probability of injuries or fatal accidents? Considering its human and economic importance, and although traffic accidents are a central issue both to the scientific community and to policy makers, there is very little empirical evidence on the magnitude and sign of this relationship. We will examine this question by exploiting the fact that in Israel, traffic density falls discretely every Friday at the onset of the Shabbat, as religious Jewish drivers stop driving and rises discretely every Saturday at the outset of the Shabbat, as the same drivers allow themselves to take to the road again. This unique setting will allow us to address the issue of identification of the causal relationship between traffic density and accidents and to provide direct evidence on this matter. We will use the set of all accidents with at least one person injured in 2000-2010 in Israel and take two complementing approaches. The first, we will analyze this relation in a country-wide perspective using a representative sample of non-urban roads in Israel matched with data on accidents in non-urban roads. The second, we will focus attention to the Ayalon Freeway, Israel’s main commuter freeway. We will merge comprehensive data of fifteen-minutes interval traffic counts in all road segments in the Ayalon freeway in 2000-2010 with the corresponding accident data and use a Fuzzy RDD approach with Shabbat entry and exit times as instruments for traffic density. The results of this study are potentially of general scientific interest and they may provide information valuable to policy makers in the European Union and other developed nations.
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