National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence

The National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (NSTSCE) at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) was established by the Federal Public Transportation Act of 2005 to develop and disseminate advanced transportation safety techniques and innovations in both rural and urban communities.

NSTSCE research focuses on four major objectives:

  1. To develop and test transportation devices and techniques that enhance driver performance
  2. To evaluate the roadway environment and infrastructure-based safety systems
  3. To address mobility for vulnerable road users
  4. To examine driver impairment issues

NSTSCE is supported financially and guided by a group of stakeholders that includes General Motors, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Travelers Insurance Company, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Virginia Center for Transportation Research (VCTR), and VTTI. Each stakeholder annually contributes $200,000 to the center and guides the research portfolio to address key surface transportation issues. This group shares a vision of improving safety for all road users locally and nationally. If you are interested in learning more about NSTSCE or becoming a stakeholder, contact Jon Hankey at jhankey@vtti.vt.edu.

Jon Hankey
Center Director

NIOSH Oil and Gas, Light Vehicle Transport Operations

In collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), VTTI has embarked on an independent evaluation of a risk management system, Cartasite’s ROVR+, in an oil and gas industry fleet. VTTI collected naturalistic data over a three-month period, as well as anonymous data on fleet-wide driver behaviors and driver evaluations of the ROVR+ technology. Analysis is underway to determine the benefits of implementing the ROVR+ technology. Driver performance will be compared between a one-month baseline period and a two-month intervention period. The results will illuminate the transport and service activities of light vehicle operations and help to promote transportation safety in the oil and gas industry.

Tips for Sharing the Road with Commercial Motor Vehicles

Car drivers are the primary cause of over three-quarters of the crashes and near-crashes that involve heavy vehicles. This statistic alone points to a clear need for better public access to information about how to share the road safely with heavy vehicles. The Tips for Sharing the Road with Commercial Motor Vehicles website covers five key guidelines for sharing the road using video clips of real-world driving events captured during one of VTTI’s naturalistic driving studies. The website combines naturalistic driving video clips, simulator screenshots, scenario descriptions, short tips, facts, and photographs of actual crashes between cars and heavy vehicles to convey the importance of proper road sharing. Although the website is aimed at new drivers, all drivers can benefit from reviewing this information to ensure they share the road safely in their everyday driving.

Evaluating the Sleeper-Berth Provision: Investigating Usage Characteristics and Safety-critical Event Involvement

Federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations require commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers to take sufficient time off duty before beginning a new driving shift. In the 2005 HOS regulations, the shift-restart methods included a 10+ hour restart (10 hours or more off duty), a 34+ hour restart (34 hours or more off duty), and a sleeper-berth provision (SBP). The SBP allows drivers to use their sleeper berth to split the required break or off-duty time into smaller periods. This NSTSCE study used naturalistic driving data to evaluate the use of the break types approved under the 2005 HOS regulations. The study looked at drivers’ preferences for type of break, demographics, and health characteristics. Break types were compared for changes in the probability of a safety-critical event such as a crash or near-crash occurring. An analysis using negative binomial regression found that the SBP was not associated with a higher risk than the longer 10+ hour or 34+ hour restart breaks in the shifts after a break. An analysis using odds ratios found that the SBP was associated with a lower risk than 10+ hour or 34+ hour restart breaks in the shifts after a break. CMV drivers’ workdays vary widely due to work requirements or unexpected events on the road. Multiple break options provide drivers flexibility in choosing safe ways to rest.

Older Driver Naturalistic Driving Study

The Older Driver Naturalistic Driving Study was the first long-term, full-scale naturalistic observation of senior drivers. Twenty older drivers, aged 71 to 84, living in the New River Valley area of Virginia participated in the study for one year each. VTTI instrumented the volunteers’ personal vehicles with an unobtrusive suite of cameras and sensors that automatically and continuously recorded time-synchronized data whenever the vehicle was driven. The data set collected during his study has led to publications shedding light on senior driver behaviors at intersections, informing objective fitness-to-drive assessments, and contributing to transportation safety questions for all ages. Several of these also served as models for the analyses that were subsequently applied to the much larger older driver cohort in the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Naturalistic Driving Study.

Driver Coach Study

The Driver Coach Study is the third in a series of teenage naturalistic driving studies conducted by VTTI’s Teen Risk and Injury Prevention Group. This study evaluated the effect of feedback on the performance of novice teenage drivers. Any time a teenage participant drove above 75 mph, swerved, changed lanes without signaling, or engaged in hard braking or hard cornering, an auditory alert (tone + speech) provided feedback. Within a few days of the auditory alert, an email was sent to both the parent and teenage driver. This email contained the time, date, type of event, and a link to a website where the parent could review a 15-second video clip of the event and an electronic report card of the teen’s driving performance since the start of the study.

Results indicated that the crash/near-crash rate for teenage drivers who received the alerts was lower than for the control group. The rate of coachable events also went down over the course of the study. However, during month 7, once the feedback was turned off, both crash/near-crash and coachable event rates were significantly higher. Teen driver performance was also related to parents’ participation. Approximately half of the parents did not log in to view the website, and analyses showed that crash/near-crash rates and coachable event rates for teens whose parents logged in were significantly lower than for those teens whose parents did not log in. Thus, the importance of parental oversight is critical to the effectiveness of any feedback system.

Judicial Licensing Ceremony

For a Virginia teen to receive his or her actual driver’s license, both a parent and the teenage driver must appear before a family district court judge to participate in the Virginia Driver’s Licensing Ceremony. This is an opportune moment to deliver important and up-to-date information about driving safety to parents and novice drivers. While some judges have taken a great deal of time and compiled excellent information, others are unsure about what information is best to administer during the ceremony.

NSTSCE has assembled a PowerPoint presentation drawn from contemporary research regarding teen driving risks to provide to judges. The two goals of this presentation are to identify conditions that increase risk for new teen drivers and to discuss ways to minimize those risks. These slides were presented to Virginia District Domestic Court Judges at the Annual Virginia Judicial Conference in August 2015. These slides are now available for judges to download via the VTTI website.