Awards and more
Communications staff designs motorcycle safety trailer
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) showed off its eye-catching, mobile motorcycle training unit at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in July as board members of the Texas Motorcycle Safety Coalition held a meeting at the Institute.
The mobile classroom is part of the DPS Motorcycle Safety Training Program Enhancement project, which allows safety classes to be held even in rural areas. The trailer and tow vehicle were purchased by DPS using Section 2010 grant funds provided by the Texas Department of Transportation. The modern, billboard-type design was the creation of TTI Art Director John Henry using photographs by Jim Lyle.
“The mobile training unit enables us to increase our training capabilities by more than 25 percent,” says Dave Metcalf, an instructor with the DPS Motorcycle Safety Unit. “This is particularly important when the new law takes effect September 1 requiring riders to complete a basic motorcycle course before they apply for a license or endorsement.”
ITE/TTI celebrate past accomplishments, future relationship
Members of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Executive Committee and International Board of Direction arrived in College Station this summer for their annual board meeting in advance of the organization’s annual meeting and exhibit in San Antonio August 9-12. While at Texas A&M University, ITE management conducted business and toured the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) — which included a visit to the Riverside Campus for a crash test.
“This commemoration is overdue,” said TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “Since the Texas Transportation Institute was formed 60 years ago, we have had a strong and productive association with ITE. It is time we properly acknowledge the accomplishments that have been possible because of this historic affiliation.”
ITE Executive Director Tom Brahms, who has held the position since 1976, agreed. “TTI has had a huge impact on ITE because of its active leadership within our organization,” he said, pointing to the numerous TTI employees who are members of, or who have had appointments to, ITE leadership positions.
“The need for what we do has never been greater,” Christiansen said “I am confident that ITE and TTI will remain leaders in our profession as we face the difficult challenges ahead, and we will walk that walk together.”
Lomax honored with prestigious ITE award
Citing his 30-year career of transportation research — and specifically his work with TTI‘s Urban Mobility Report — the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has honored Research Engineer Tim Lomax with one of the association’s most prestigious awards.
The Theodore M. Matson Memorial Award has existed since 1957 and recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of traffic engineering. “Throughout his career, Timothy Lomax has demonstrated a strong commitment to the advancement to the transportation profession,” the association wrote in a news release about the award. “He accomplished this as a career employee of TTI, focusing on transportation research in the areas of performance measurement and mobility improvement.”
Lomax is co-author of the Urban Mobility Report, which tracks traffic congestion across the country. Lomax received the Matson Award during ITE‘s Annual Meeting in San Antonio in August.
TRB report identifies roadway surface safety issues
Two current and several former TTI researchers collaborated on a new Transportation Research Board (TRB) Circular, Influence of Roadway Surface Discontinuities on Safety, published in May 2009. The report is an update to a 1983 report and addresses hydroplaning, holes and bumps, edge conditions and positive effects of road surface discontinuities.
John M. Mounce and Richard A. Zimmer of TTI collaborated with former TTI staff members Don L. Ivey, Lindsay I. Griffin III, Jack Humphreys, Dean Sicking and Bob Gallaway, as well as others on the TRB Surface Properties—Vehicle Interaction Committee to produce the report.
High speeds test TTI-designed roadside safety devices
Passenger cars and trucks slammed into a Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)-designed bridge rail in August at speeds never before tested at the Texas A&M Riverside Campus. The vehicles reached 85 miles per hour in tests designed to prepare for high-speed roadways under consideration by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
“TxDOT is investigating very high design speeds between 80 and 100 mph to promote faster and more efficient travel within the state,” says TTI Research Engineer Roger Bligh. “We know how our roadside safety devices react to crashes performed at normal highway speeds, but above 80 mph is not something we have tested before now.”
Two of the high-speed tests involved a bridge rail modified with pipe inserts between a concrete barrier and steel rails. “The energy-absorbing mechanism did its job,” Bligh says. “But, as a result of the tests, we know these faster speeds will require a taller rail in order to ensure stability for vehicles with higher centers of gravity, like pick-up trucks.”
To be deemed successful, the roadside safety device must keep the tested vehicle stable and upright with little intrusion into the passenger compartment. As part of the TxDOT project, Bligh and his team also tested a guardrail system designed to accommodate high-speed impacts.
State Department awards TTI crash test project
The U.S. Department of State has awarded nearly $500,000 to the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI‘s) Crashworthy Structures Program to test how existing perimeter barriers hold up to European-style trucks. The seven separate crash tests will begin this fall.
To conduct the full-scale crash tests, several of the “cab-over” trucks, commonly used in Europe and Japan, will be shipped to TTI.
“I think our main advantage in securing the contract is our ability to do so many tests in a relatively short amount of time,” said Program Manager Dean Alberson. “The large amount of space we have here at the Riverside Campus gives us a definite advantage.”
The State Department will test steel bollards and concrete “knee walls” — both designed to keep vehicles out of high-security areas, like embassies. “We know that American-style vehicles can’t penetrate the barriers’but we need to know if these cab-over trucks and vans, that have the driver directly over the engine, react any differently,” Alberson said.
Texas teen crash rate declines, TTI program shares credit
During a July news conference in Austin, Texas, Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) Agency Director Dennis Christiansen and the chair of the House Committee on Public Health, State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, touted the connection between the TTI‘s Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program and the dramatic decline in teen fatalities in Texas.
Teens in the Driver Seat, which began in 2003, is a peer-to-peer public awareness campaign in which teenagers encourage their friends to drive safer by being aware of the causes of teen crashes — driving at night, cell phone use and having too many kids in their car. TDS has been implemented in 300 Texas high schools.
The state capital event was planned after a TTI study examined teen fatal crash rates in 37 states, all of which had a graduated driver license (GDL) law in place for at least five years. (GDL laws place restrictions on new drivers, such as how late they can drive at night or how many passengers they can have in the car.) The study found that teen fatalities in Texas dropped 32 percent from 2002 to 2007, much more than any other state.
Representative Kolkhorst, who co-authored the GDL legislation, told the media that the TDS program deserves much of the credit for lowering the teen death rate because “this is something we can teach and we can empower these drivers to control their destiny.”
“Our research team found that a graduated driver license law can be made more effective when it is reinforced by a peer-to-peer effort like the Teens in the Driver Seat program,” Christiansen said. “We have made great progress, but there is much more to be done.”