Christine Yager Presents at Human Factors Annual Meeting
TTI Associate Transportation Researcher Christine Yager gave a presentation, “The Effects of Reading and Writing Text-Based Messages While Driving,” at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society held Oct. 22–26. More than 1,450 participants from the United States and the world attended. TTI Senior Research Scientist Melissa Walden also attended the meeting.
Yager presented the results of a project that assessed the distraction potential of reading and writing text-based messages while driving under varying roadway and texting response demands. She says the biggest surprise of the research results was that the response times were even slower than expected compared to previous driving simulator research. “With the driving simulator, response times were 1–2 seconds, whereas our test track test bed showed an increased response time of 3–4 seconds,” says Yager.
California High School Students Join Teens in the Driver Seat
In the first public event announcing the TTI-developed Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program in California, Franklin High School students in Elk Grove conducted a news conference for Sacramento-area media Sept. 19. The students outlined their efforts in combating teen car crashes, the No. 1 killer of teens across the country. In California, teen drivers were responsible for 1,744 fatal crashes between 2006 and 2010.
“The peer-to-peer approach of TDS has been very successful in Texas, and we think the program will be a big complement to our efforts in reducing teen crashes here in California,” says Jill Cooper of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California–Berkeley.
In addition to California, TDS is in high schools in Georgia, North Carolina and Montana. In Texas, where the program began, more than 500 schools have taken part in the peer-to-peer program. “With the success of TDS in Texas, we are happy to see the program expanding into other states,” Russell Henk, TDS creator and TTI senior research engineer, says. “We are glad to be a partner in California’s effort in reducing teen crashes.”
LSU and UNO Join the Southwest Region University Transportation Center
The Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC) — a consortium of five schools with transportation research and education programs founded in 1988 and headquarter at TTI — has recently added two universities to its roster.
“Louisiana State University [LSU] and the University of New Orleans [UNO] became a part of the SWUTC this year, bringing to the consortium their national leadership in hurricane traffic analysis, evacuation strategies and modeling,” says Dock Burke, the SWUTC director and TTI research economist. “LSU and UNO offer high-quality resources in terms of their faculty, students and ongoing programs. We believe the entire Gulf Coast will benefit from this new alliance.”
The SWUTC is a part of a national effort to foster university-based, long-term research and education initiatives. Its major goal of attracting and developing students to become first-rate transportation professionals and industry leaders sets it apart from other transportation research programs. As part of this year’s grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the SWUTC will focus on projects that improve our quality of life through research.
John Maddox Joins TTI/UMTRI
John Maddox has joined the University of Michigan Transportation Institute (UMTRI) and TTI as the director of collaborative program strategies. Maddox was formerly the associate administrator of vehicle safety research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Maddox is based out of UMTRI’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. His responsibilities include identifying areas where the two research organizations can effectively collaborate.
“TTI is the preeminent research organization when it comes to the roadway infrastructure side of transportation safety. Equivalently, UMTRI is the preeminent research organization for the vehicle side of that equation,” says Maddox. “As technology in the automobile industry progresses, it is important to connect vehicles to infrastructure in a way that benefits safety, mobility and the environment.”
According to Maddox, TTI is contributing to the automated and connected vehicle research work being conducted by UMTRI for the U.S. Department of Transportation. This 30-month safety pilot project will establish a real-world, multimodal test site in Ann Arbor for enabling wireless communications among vehicles and roadside equipment for use in generating data to enable safety applications. Passenger cars, commercial trucks and transit buses equipped with a mix of integrated, retrofit and aftermarket vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure based safety systems will be studied.
TxDOT’s Renewed Focus on Safety Emphasized at 86th Annual Short Course
Change was the dominant theme for the 86th Annual Short Course, which took place at Texas A&M University Oct. 16–17. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) event is hosted by TTI each year. Approximately 2,000 people attended the 2012 Short Course, which provides TxDOT and universities a forum for sharing research findings from the past year.
Presiding over the event, TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson talked about the department’s numerous changes over the past year, which include his leadership approach, a restructuring of the organization, a modernization and streamlining effort, and a renewed emphasis on making the Texas transportation system safer for Texans.
“There’s been a lot of change and a lot of new talent to complement what we’ve been doing,” Wilson told members attending the Short Course luncheon. “I think it makes us a smarter, better and stronger agency going forward.” He said the new team comes with new blood, a new vision, new ideas, better business practices and new ways to do things.
In addition to the various sessions that focus on different aspects of transportation, Short Course serves as a platform for the popular Extra Mile Awards, which recognize employees who helped save lives over the last year.
TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen, who spoke at the opening session, was quick to point out that TxDOT has a history of continuous improvement via change. “In 1927 [when the first Short Course was held], Texas had all of 1.4 million registered vehicles, compared to over 22 million today. The population of our state was 5.2 million,” he said, noting that the population is five times that today. “You have always been a leader in how you provide the best transportation system in the world,” he told the TxDOT personnel in attendance.
Hawkins Honored with Educator Award
Dr. Gene Hawkins, associate professor in Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, is the recipient of a prestigious educator award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). Hawkins, who is also a TTI research engineer, received the 2012 Wilbur S. Smith Distinguished Transportation Educator Award this summer at the ITE Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
ITE recognizes a transportation educator annually with the Wilbur S. Smith Award for his or her outstanding contributions to the transportation profession by relating academic studies to the actual practice of transportation. The award recognized Hawkins for his commitment to the professional development of his students.
During his three decades as an educator, Hawkins has been the Texas A&M ITE student chapter advisor from 2007 to 2010. Texas A&M ITE was awarded best chapter in the Texas District in 2008 and 2010, and the Texas A&M team won the inaugural ITE Traffic Bowl in 2010.
University Student Groups Start Peer-Based Driving Program
Based on TTI’s Teens in the Driver Seat program, Texas A&M University–San Antonio (TAMU-SA) and the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) have started the U in the Driver Seat (UDS) program, a new peer-based program that organizers hope will help reduce impaired driving among Texas college students. Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of Americans under the age of 25, and alcohol use stands out as a common contributor. In Texas alone in 2011, drivers under the age of 25 were responsible for 21 percent of all alcohol-related fatal crashes — the highest percentage of any age group.
“The STARS [Students Teaching and Advocating for Responsible Self-Growth] Peer Educators and other campus student leaders decided that [UDS] would become a key focus for our health education program at the University of the Incarnate Word,” says Samantha Buentello, one of the program leaders.
TTI developed UDS and provides the science, materials and support for the program, while each student group determines how the program will work in its school. Funding is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“We are proud to join with [TTI] and the University of the Incarnate Word on such an important program to raise awareness of safe driving for students of all ages,” said Dr. Maria Hernandez Ferrier, president of TAMU-SA.