Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)

Degree Level



Civil Engineering


Sarah Hernandez

Committee Member

Mitra, Suman

Second Committee Member

Sasidharan, Lekshmi


food accessibility, low access, transportation network systems, rural roads, environment characteristics


Food deserts, areas with limited access to grocery stores which sell fresh produce, dairy, and meats, are a growing concern in many communities. The presence of a food desert is known to cause great impacts on the physical health of the people residing within them, but there is little to no research on a food desert’s influence on the traffic safety of the location in which it encompasses. Based on previous studies into food deserts, studies suggest that food inaccessibility is mostly felt by rural residents. Since rural residents must travel farther distances on more hazardous rural roadways to access food retailers, it was hypothesized that there could be an increased number of crashes in areas with food deserts. Because there is little to no research into the intersection of food deserts and traffic safety, to begin the first steps into this area of research this study attempts to determine if the relationship between the presence of food deserts and number of expected vehicular crashes is statistically significant. To determine to what degree the presence of food deserts affect the number of crashes in at tract if at all, a linear regression was implemented that was examining the effect the attributes of a tract’s-built environment, which included population distribution, roadway functional class distribution, daily vehicle miles traveled, and food desert attributes, had on the expected number of crashes. While the study determined that there is a statistically significant relationship between the presence e of food deserts and crash incidences, contrary to the initial hypothesis, the study found an inverse relationship between the presence of food deserts and the number of expected vehicular crashes. Specifically, tracts identified as food deserts decrease the overall number of crash incidences in the tract. This unexpected outcome was further supported by the parallel finding that a decrease in the number of grocery stores correlates with a reduction in crash incidences. These findings suggest that there could be a complex interplay between food deserts, travel patterns, and land use that requires further research to deepen the understanding between crash incidences and food desert. Future studies should examine the socioeconomic identities, travel patterns, and driving behaviors of individuals living in food deserts to understand aspects of grocery trips exhibited by those residents. Additionally, investigating the land use composition of food deserts and its impact on traffic safety could provide valuable insights. This study takes the first steps towards bridging the research gap in identifying the impacts the presence of a food desert has on traffic safety.