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Reliability is an important issue for safety-critical broadcast services in vehicular ad hoc networks (VANETs). So far, most investigations of such broadcast networks focus on multihop connectivity, taking all one-hop links for granted. In this paper, four reliability metrics for one-hop broadcast communication in VANETs, including the packet reception rate (PRR), the packet delivery ratio (PDR), the node successful packet delivery probability (PDP), and the effective range (ER), are introduced and evaluated analytically and by simulations. Expressions of these reliability metrics for one-hop broadcast in IEEE-802.11-based 1-D VANETs are derived with consideration of the IEEE 802.11 distributed coordination function (DCF), the hidden terminal problem, and collisions caused by concurrent transmissions. The impacts of network parameters such as distinct transmission, carrier sensing, and interference ranges; the density of nodes in the networks; the distances of receivers to the senders; the message generation rates; the backoff window sizes; and the channel data rates on the reliability of the broadcast communication in VANETs are investigated and discussed. As an example, the proposed model is applied to the evaluation of the dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) safety-critical message propagation in a highway setting. As a result, some important observations to the design and analysis of such communication systems are provided.