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Safety

[S]afety ... on the road, on the rails, in the air, and on the water ...has always been and must continue to be the central focus of the Department of Transportation. This goal must guide everything done by both the leadership of the Department and its workforce, who will be our partners in everything we do.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood
Before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, United States Senate, January 21, 2009

Age-Related Changes in Driver Response

Man driving 'Miss Daisy'
Sean Dougherty
"Miss Daisy" is one of the MIT AgeLab’s driving simulators, which uses real-time simulation software to better understand issues related to aging and driving.

New England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The goal of this ongoing project is to develop a vehicle platform that reveals how a person reacts in various driving situations and identifies physical changes

associated with distraction, lack of confidence, health issues, or other conditions that might diminish the ability to drive. The project is intended to lead to the creation of the first vehicle safety system that measures and responds to a driver's physical and mental status across the lifespan.

In collaboration with MIT's AgeLab, researchers are conducting studies with the simulator dubbed "Miss Daisy" and the roadgoing "Miss Rosie" and "AwareCar,

The AwareCar
New England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The AwareCar is equipped with more than $1.5 million worth of sensors, software, and data analysis systems. It is the world’s most complex university-operated experimental vehicle.

" the latter of which is equipped with more than $1.5 million worth of sensors, software, and data analysis systems. The three simulators were described in a June 22, 2008, New York Times article by Tanya Mohn: "Miss Rosie, a Volkswagen New Beetle, is a mobile lab used for research into how flexibility and strength affect driving performance. Miss Daisy, another New Beetle, and the AwareCar, a Volvo, are wired to track eye movements and to measure pulse, alertness, and stress levels as a measure of the kind of physical changes older people undergo while driving."

The project's simulated experimentation will focus on comparing response mechanisms of younger adults with those of aged drivers during secondary tasks such as talking on cellular phones. Additional research is being conducted to investigate the potential for differences in response style by age group, using a more complex cognitive task that may further elucidate the effects of secondary tasks on driving performance.

Making technology more responsive to older drivers will render it safer for all users. This research is likely to change the way that cars are designed.

Additional funding for the project was provided by Ford Motor Company, Volvo Cars, and the MIT AgeLab.

UTC Website: http://ctl.mit.edu/index.pl?id=5146

Smart Signals: Real-Time Guidance for Low-Vision Pedestrians

National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT), University of Idaho

"Smart" traffic signals can improve safety and traffic flow. Over the last six years, NIATT researchers have been applying distributed network control theory to develop systems that integrate networks and other appropriate components. The goal is to control pedestrian and vehicular signals on the basis of real-time data and to benefit underserved users such as pedestrians with disabilities.

Researchers recently developed hardware prototypes, including methods of improving the accuracy and safety of pedestrian countdown timers. They also demonstrated dynamic signaling, plug-and-play timers and sensors, an improved accessible pedestrian station, and a remote pedestrian button to communicate wirelessly with each other and with the traffic controller, using global positioning system (GPS) capability to guide pedestrians safely across an intersection.

Thus far, three students have contributed to smart-signals research while completing their master's degrees in computer engineering. By doing so, they have broadened participation in a field of study that historically attracted only civil engineering students. The work is challenging, as it combines computer-based electronics with safety-critical requirements, especially for end-users with low levels of vision and mobility.

The advisory group that oversees the project comprises the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Idaho Department of Transportation (IDOT), the National Federation for the Blind, and the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the Idaho State Board of Education's Higher Education Research Council, Econolite Traffic Control Products (Anaheim, California), and Campbell Company (Boise, Idaho).

UTC Website: http://www.webs1.uidaho.edu/niatt/

Communicating Incident Information from Remote Locations

Markup of road
Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University
First responders can upload digital photographs to a tablet PC and highlight the photos with a stylus prior to transmitting the information to a Traffic Operations Center.

Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University

When transportation maintenance personnel respond to incidents in rural areas having sparse communications coverage, it can be difficult to accurately convey the extent of the situation to those involved in managing the incident scene. With driver safety and traffic flow at stake, it is important to be able to expeditiously collect, track, and share incident information with at-scene and secondary-incident responders, and the Traffic Operations Center (TOC).

Researchers at the WTI have developed a mobile communications/data collection system that will help first responders to overcome communications difficulties in remote locations. The system, known as the Redding Responder, was nominated for Best New Service, Product, or Application category of ITS America's Best of ITS Awards.

Arriving at the scene of an incident, a responder will use a tablet PC that can communicate with a GPS to determine location and display aerial photos and topographic maps. If digital photos are taken at the scene, they can be uploaded to the PC, and a stylus can be used to highlight certain points in the photo. This information can then be transmitted to the TOC, where management can make immediate decisions on what needs to be done. Maps and weather information are also available for automatic, location-specific display at the scene.

The proof-of-concept system has been successfully tested in the field, allowing responders to send and receive key data from the site of an incident. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO International) showcased the Responder project at its annual conference as an example of putting research into practice.

Researchers continue to prepare the system for ongoing field use. Moreover, this technology could be readily replicated by other transportation or public safety organizations and adapted to fit their needs.

This project is additionally funded by the California Department of Transportation.

UTC Website: http://www.wti.montana.edu/

Onboard Automotive Electronic/Electrical Communications Systems

Center for Transportation and Materials Engineering (CTME), Youngstown State University

Communication between vehicles and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) is necessary to improve the safety of the transportation system. This ongoing project examines various aspects of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and its significance to today's onboard automotive electronic/electrical systems, which include navigation, communications, safety, information, and entertainment. The requirements for connecting these systems through a high-speed data-transmission network were examined, as was the importance of EMC assurance to minimize system emissions and susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.

The research is aimed at identifying critical parameters that affect the performance of the data-transmission network. The need to develop test methodologies and analytical techniques to define performance characteristics is being addressed, with a focus on increased use of new, more environmentally friendly materials to improve system longevity and sustainability for wiring and connectors. Also being considered is the need to provide EMC training, education, and workforce development to students due to increased demands for EMC engineers specializing in design and testing.

Additional project funding was provided by Youngstown State University.

UTC Website: http://stem.ysu.edu/CTME/

Emergency Medical Services and Congestion

Highway car accident
iStockphoto.com/ Tillsonburg
Emergency medical response time is often adversely affected by congestion. Information from the automatic collision notification system can offer practical solutions that result in more timely emergency care.

University Transportation Center (UTC), University of Alabama at Birmingham

In 2005, 43,443 of the more than 117,000 unintentional injury deaths in the United States were transportation-related. Congestion can have a considerable effect on motor-vehicle-crash injury outcomes, as ambulances and emergency personnel mired in traffic are delayed both in reaching crash victims and in transporting them to hospitals.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Virginia collaborated on the project, which addressed the impact of congestion on injury outcomes and sought ways to minimize its effect.
Particular attention was paid to the role of first responders and the "golden hour" of time between the crash and the arrival of emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.

National EMS data were used to examine the association between urban sprawl and EMS response time. EMS providers were surveyed with regard to their professional training and their experience with congestion. Automatic collision notification systems were considered in light of the pretransport information they provide that can be used to tailor subsequent medical care. This information will be translated into practical techniques for EMS providers, dispatchers, and traffic managers to enhance their response to congestion.

UTC Website: http://www.uab.edu/utc/

Mitigating Crash Fires with Use of Mist-Controlling Additives

Plane dropping mist-controlled additives over forrest fire
Prince George Citizen/The Canadian Press/David Mah
Liquid hydrocarbon fuels are more flammable in their gas form. Polymer-based fuel additives are used to minimize fine-mist formation and thus mitigate crash fires.

Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC), University of Nebraska–Lincoln

More than 100 years after the development of the liquid-hydrocarbon-fueled engine, our transportation system continues to be subject to the inherent fire risks associated with these fuels. This project aims to do for fuel safety what seatbelts and airbags did for passenger safety, by reducing the probability of a fire in the event of a crash.

The central challenge is to make fuel, which needs to burn in an engine, more firesafe. Key to accomplishing this is the realization that liquid hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel do not burn readily in their liquid phase and are much more flammable in their gas phase. Liquid diesel, if it were to be spilled on the ground, is difficult to ignite and relatively safe.

The goal, therefore, is to minimize fine-mist formation. A fine mist formed during a crash is easily ignitable, and the resulting fireball will heat and ignite everything nearby, including spilled liquid fuel. If misting can be prevented, the probability of fire is greatly reduced or even eliminated.

It was previously shown that a polymer-based fuel additive can prevent misting for kerosenebased aviation systems. This MATC project builds on that work by testing the effectiveness of existing polymers for diesel fuel, creating benchmarks and correlation parameters for tests with diesel surrogates, and identifying conditions in real diesel systems to enable the design of next-generation polymers. Simple laboratory experiments will be conducted so that progress in these areas can be achieved more quickly and at less cost. A greater understanding of the science behind the misting of diesel fuels in crashes will move the development of safer diesel fuels closer to reality.

UTC Website: http://matc.unl.edu/

Plan4Safety: Website for Crash Data Analysis

Map of city
Plan4Safety Website screen captureCenter for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, Rutgers University)
Plan4Safety presents crash data query results clearly, in automatically generated charts and tables, on the output screen. Tools and filter menus are conveniently located in a fixed position at the left of every screen.

Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), Rutgers University

Although the number of traffic fatalities and injuries in the United States is dropping, there were still 39,800 traffic fatalities in 2008. Careful analysis of crash factors gives safety professionals the insights that they need to address the problem.

Plan4Safety is a web-based crash analysis tool that compiles, organizes, and sorts tens of millions of bits of crash data. It allows users to search and filter data and to instantly compare results, providing a snapshot of the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" of crashes. DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), county and local engineers, and other decision-makers can use this software to resolve critical issues and assess the most effective and economical ways to approach safety management, enhancement, and improvement. Plan4Safety's ability to simultaneously perform statistical and geographical analyses allows local officials to zero in on where enforcement, education, engineering, and prevention are most needed. Using geographical information systems (GIS), Plan4Safety provides an immediate, at-a-glance overview of how many and what types of crashes are occurring at given locations. Users can choose to have results superimposed on a simple background map or a satellite map. Plan4Safety features include:

  • Multiple sources of data, which give users a comprehensive view of crash factors. The program currently has access to New Jersey crash records from 2003 on (300,000-plus crash reports annually), in addition to straight-line-diagram components and census, land-use, spatial, and traffic data.
  • GIS mapping, which provides visual analysis, pinpointing exact locations of pedestrian crashes and enabling the viewing of broad clusters of recurring incidents known as hotspots.
  • Statistical analysis tools, which provide a variety of ways to understand the nature of problems at specific locations. The program generates diagrams that allow the frequency of particular collision types to be easily assessed. Users can choose parameters to create a situation as broad or as specific as needed to illuminate existing crash patterns.
  • Network screening tools, for identifying high-incident sites on a macro- or microlevel. These evaluation tools can rank crash sites, allowing decision-makers to prioritize and proactively address potential problem areas. In addition, network screening can indicate the likelihood of crashes in particular areas.

The website is located at http://plan4safety.rutgers.edu/.

Additional funding for this project was provided by New Jersey DOT.

UTC Website: http://cait.rutgers.edu/

Risk Maps for Improving Roadway Safety: A Pilot Program

Map depicting fatal and major injury crashes
Midwest Transportation Consortium, Iowa State University, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and Midwest Research Institute)
Risk map depicting fatal and major injury crashes per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled, representing average relative risk to motorists traveling on Iowa’s state-maintained highways. Relatively, the safest roads are the state’s interstates and other freeways.

Midwest Transportation Consortium (MTC), Iowa State University

To make the highway system safer, decision-makers must be able to identify safety risks and to match them with remedies known to save lives. There is no nationwide system in the United States for rating the relative risks of different roads. In partnership with the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, MTC is supporting a pilot project for the U.S. Road Assessment Program (usRAP) by developing risk maps for Iowa roadways. Based on a European model, the goal of usRAP is to provide a method to benchmark the safety performance of specific roadway segments compared with that of similar roadways while supplementing and complementing ongoing state highway safety planning. Based on recent crash and traffic-flow data for Iowa roadways, MTC researchers created four types of risk maps to show the following information:

  • Crash density: fatal and serious injury crashes per mile.
  • Crash rate: fatal and serious injury crashes per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • Crash-rate ratio: fatal and injury crash rates compared with average crash rates for similar roads.
  • Potential crash savings: number of fatal and serious injury crashes avoided for each three-year period if the crash rate were reduced to the average rate for similar roads.

The maps can help decision-makers at state and local levels to put their safety dollars toward making the highest-risk locations safer, adding improvements such as cable barriers and chevrons. The maps have been used to supplement Iowa's identification of high-risk rural roads in response to SAFETEA-LU requirements. The maps can also help road users to understand the risks involved in traveling on different types of roadways.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Midwest Research Institute.

UTC Website: http://www.intrans.iastate.edu/mtc/index.htm

New Transportation Safety and Security Journal

Southeastern Transportation Center (STC), University of TennesseeJournal  of Transportation Safety & Security publication cover

STC, in collaboration with the University of Tennessee, is launching a new academic journal, Journal of Transportation Safety & Security. The journal will publish original, full-length articles, and all papers will be subject to rigorous peer review. It will be issued quarterly, possibly with a fifth, special issue in some years. The first volume was published in March 2009.

The mission of the journal is to disseminate research results and engineering experience to researchers, educators, students, practitioners, and policy-makers in order to promote transportation safety and security with use of comprehensive and integrated solutions. STC will provide strong leadership, assembling an editorial board, sponsoring academic conferences, controlling scientific quality, and attracting peer attention.

An exhaustive search was conducted to identify academic publishers that already publish at least one transportation-related journal and that have an international reputation in the field. The requirements were met by four publishers: Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis. Each was sent a preliminary prospectus for the journal and was asked how they share the copyright, bear its costs, and streamline the submission and review process.

After extensive market research, Taylor & Francis concluded that the proposed journal was viable. It is entering into a publishing partnership with STC and the University of Tennessee.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the University of Tennessee and the Center for Transportation Research.

UTC Website: http://stc.utk.edu/

Risk Analysis of Maritime Traffic in Harbors and Waterways

Large ship
iStockphoto.com/Dan Prat
With more ships and more volatile cargo, maritime risks are higher than ever. Planning for accidents and other catastrophes is therefore critical.

Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), Rutgers University

Growing consumption of petroleum products worldwide has resulted in the proliferation of vessels carrying oil, chemicals, and gases into U.S. harbors. The surging demand for commodities and finished goods places a heavy responsibility on local authorities to secure infrastructure and protect the public. Disruption of port operations, whether from terrorist actions or natural disasters, not only would affect our quality of life but could have devastating global economic impacts by impeding or even halting international supply chains. To keep goods and services flowing freely and to prepare for, respond to, and recover from high-consequence events, the risks inherent in port operations and vessel traffic must be analyzed and effective strategies developed.

The CAIT Laboratory for Port Security (LPS) has developed a maritime transportation risk-modeling and analysis tool. Risk analysis involves a set of queries related to (1) the likelihood of an incident; (2) factors that may precipitate or instigate an event; and (3) costs in terms of human life, the environment, infrastructure, and property. The answers to these questions are derived from historical data and expert opinion. Maritime traffic-risk-analysis elements include:

  • Multiple data sources on vessel types and movements, traffic rules, and tides.
  • Simulation modeling that mimics vessel traffic and movements and other details, such as anchorage delays, vessel-to-vessel transfers, loading, and discharging.
  • Statistical analysis of input parameters and output performance measures.
Map of the Strait of Istanbul
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, Rutgers University
Detailed computer-simulation-model image showing transit vessel traffic in the Strait of Istanbul. Through collaboration with the Turkish Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) Center, CAIT has developed an accurate vessel scheduling algorithm based on the Maritime Traffic Regulations of the Turkish Straits.

The first step is to develop a large-scale simulation model of vessel traffic and port and waterway logistics. Second, a risk model is generated for various incident scenarios. Finally, the two models are combined to allow various policies to be evaluated in terms of their potential for risk mitigation and traffic control effectiveness.

This regional study involves the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Currently, the tool is being implemented in the Delaware River and Bay area, where most inbound materials are crude oil and chemicals. It also is being used successfully in Turkey's Strait of Istanbul, one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.

Consumption of petroleum products worldwide has resulted in an increase in vessels carrying oil, chemicals, and gases. With more ships and more volatile cargo, maritime risks are higher than ever, which makes planning for accidents and other catastrophes critical.

To predict the impacts of an accident, risk analysis models pose a set of queries related to the likelihood of an incident, what may precipitate or instigate an event, and what the costs would be in terms of human life, the environment, infrastructure, and property.

UTC Website: http://cait.rutgers.edu/

Intermodal Transportation Safety and Security Workshop

National Center for Intermodal Transportation (NCIT), University of Denver and Mississippi State University

With transportation security and infrastructure among the top national concerns, the National Center for Intermodal Transportation, in conjunction with the Mountain Plains Consortium, hosted an Intermodal Transportation Safety and Security Workshop for experts in February 2008. Educators, policy-makers, private industry representatives, and researchers participated in the event.

Among the workshop presenters were Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, and retired Major General Mason C. Whitney, Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security. Congressman Perlmutter delivered the keynote address, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Security," while Major Whitney presented on "Transportation and Homeland Security." Other presenters included Ronald Hynes, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation, and David Bassett, Federal Security Director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Topics included:

  • Transportation Security Administration
  • Transit Security
  • Improving Commercial Vehicle Safety at the Border
  • Research Needs in Securing In-Land Cargo Container Transport
  • Homeland Security Education and Transportation Safety and Security
  • FTA's Role in Promoting Safety and Security in Public Transportation
  • Security Laws and Programs

Workshop proceedings and next steps for the transportation community will be available in a report, which will assist in future research and policy-making decisions. The presentations are available at http://ncit.msstate.edu/events/ events_01.html.

UTC Website: http://www.ncit.msstate.edu/