Examining the influence of link function misspecification in conventional regression models for developing crash modification factors
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This study further examined the use of regression models for developing crash modification factors (CMFs), specifically focusing on the misspecification in the link function. The primary objectives were to validate the accuracy of CMFs derived from the commonly used regression models (i.e., generalized linear models or GLMs with additive linear link functions) when some of the variables have nonlinear relationships and quantify the amount of bias as a function of the nonlinearity. Using the concept of artificial realistic data, various linear and nonlinear crash modification functions (CM-Functions) were assumed for three variables. Crash counts were randomly generated based on these CM-Functions. CMFs were then derived from regression models for three different scenarios. The results were compared with the assumed true values. The main findings are summarized as follows: (1) when some variables have nonlinear relationships with crash risk, the CMFs for these variables derived from the commonly used GLMs are all biased, especially around areas away from the baseline conditions (e.g., boundary areas); (2) with the increase in nonlinearity (i.e., nonlinear relationship becomes stronger), the bias becomes more significant; (3) the quality of CMFs for other variables having linear relationships can be influenced when mixed with those having nonlinear relationships, but the accuracy may still be acceptable; and (4) the misuse of the link function for one or more variables can also lead to biased estimates for other parameters. This study raised the importance of the link function when using regression models for developing CMFs.
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