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This paper presents mathematical modeling and analysis for the total delay in disseminating safety messages in a vehicular ad hoc network (VANET). Node clustering can help in managing a large network and improving scalability, thus cluster based broadcasting is considered so as to prevent broadcast storms. Traffic flow theories developed in civil engineering are employed, which suggest different mathematical models for different traffic densities. This provides realistic models that account for the mobility and randomness and matches the highly dynamic nature of a VANET. We also investigate the minimum cluster size that achieves acceptable message delivery latency. It is shown that network control and performance parameters are dependent on the traffic density.