# Zero-state Markov switching count-data models: An empirical assessment

Abstract

In this study, a two-state Markov switching count-data model is proposed as an alternative to zero-inflated models to account for the preponderance of zeros sometimes observed in transportation count data, such as the number of accidents occurring on a roadway segment over some period of time. For this accident-frequency case, zero-inflated models assume the existence of two states: one of the states is a zero-accident count state, which has accident probabilities that are so low that they cannot be statistically distinguished from zero, and the other state is a normal-count state, in which counts can be non-negative integers that are generated by some counting process, for example, a Poisson or negative binomial. While zero-inflated models have come under some criticism with regard to accident-frequency applications - one fact is undeniable - in many applications they provide a statistically superior fit to the data. The Markov switching approach we propose seeks to overcome some of the criticism associated with the zero-accident state of the zero-inflated model by allowing individual roadway segments to switch between zero and normal-count states over time. An important advantage of this Markov switching approach is that it allows for the direct statistical estimation of the specific roadway-segment state (i.e., zero-accident or normal-count state) whereas traditional zero-inflated models do not. To demonstrate the applicability of this approach, a two-state Markov switching negative binomial model (estimated with Bayesian inference) and standard zero-inflated negative binomial models are estimated using five-year accident frequencies on Indiana interstate highway segments. It is shown that the Markov switching model is a viable alternative and results in a superior statistical fit relative to the zero-inflated models.