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Effects of new urban motorway infrastructure on road traffic accidents in the local area: a retrospective longitudinal study in Scotland
  1. Jonathan R Olsen1,
  2. Richard Mitchell1,
  3. Daniel F Mackay2,
  4. David K Humphreys3,
  5. David Ogilvie4
  6. on behalf of the M74 study team
  1. 1Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Institute of Health and Wellbeing, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  4. 4MRC Epidemiology Unit, UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan R Olsen, Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, 1 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; jonathan.olsen{at}


Background The M74 motorway extension, Glasgow, opened in June 2011. One justification for construction was an expectation that it would reduce road traffic accidents (RTAs) on local non-motorway roads. This study evaluated the impact of the extension on the number of RTAs, stratifying by accident severity.

Methods Data for the period 1997–2014 were extracted from a UK database of reported RTAs involving a personal injury. RTA severity was defined by the level of injury: minor, severe or fatal. RTAs were assigned to (1) the local area surrounding the motorway extension, (2) a comparator area surrounding an existing motorway or (3) a control area elsewhere in the conurbation. Interrupted time-series regression with autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) errors was used to determine longitudinal between-area differences in change in the number of RTAs, which might indicate an intervention effect.

Results Glasgow and surrounding local authorities saw a 50.6% reduction in annual RTAs (n: 5901 to 2914) between 1997 and 2014. In the intervention area, the number of recorded RTAs decreased by 50.7% (n: 758 to 374), and that of fatal/severe RTAs by 57.4% (n: 129 to 55), with similar reductions in the comparator/control areas. The interrupted time-series analysis showed no significant between-area differences in temporal trends. The reduction of pedestrian casualties was attenuated in the intervention area relative to Glasgow and surrounding authorities.

Conclusions Reduction in RTAs was not associated with the motorway extension. Our findings suggest that in planning future investment, it should not be taken for granted that new road infrastructure alone will reduce RTAs in local areas. Urbanisation is proceeding rapidly worldwide, and evidence of infrastructure changes is lacking; this novel study provides important findings for future developments.

  • Environmental epidemiology
  • Outcome Research Evaluation

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Contributors DO led the design of the overall study in collaboration with RM and DKH (and other members of the M74 study team, see acknowledgements). JRO designed and conducted the analysis in collaboration with RM, DFM and DKH. JRO prepared the first draft of the manuscript, with all authors contributing to its main content and revising it with critical comments. All authors have read and approved the manuscript prior to submission.

  • Funding This study was funded by the NIHR Public Health Research programme (project number 11/3005/07: see The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR PHR programme or the Department of Health. The researchers were independent of the funders; the funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, the decision to publish, or the preparation of the manuscript. DO is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) (MC_UP_12015/6).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement For further information, please refer to the MRC Epidemiology Unit data sharing portal at