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Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety (CVRUS) personnel conduct research and outreach activities focused on enhancing safety for all vulnerable road users, including: senior and teen drivers, bicyclists and other vehicle riders, and pedestrians (especially the very young and the elderly). Vulnerable road users comprise all age groups and a variety of demographics. Their one shared trait is that they are all at increased risk of suffering a traffic-related crash or injury. Therefore, they all require special concern and warrant research to support their continued safe transportation needs. The Center currently encompasses two groups:

Australian Naturalistic Driving Pilot Study, University of New South Wales

This pilot study is being conducted as a proof-of-concept that the VTTI data acquisition system (DAS), which is currently widely used in the U.S., can be successfully adapted for use in Australia where there are significant differences in vehicle and roadway design.

The Effects of Adverse Conditions on Senior Drivers’ Vehicle Control

Adverse driving conditions (e.g., rain, darkness, fog, etc.) pose risks for all drivers. However, senior drivers may be differentially at risk due to the physical and cognitive challenges associated with aging. Few research endeavors have been conducted to determine the real-world driving behavior of drivers of different ages in adverse conditions, but the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) data set provides an unprecedented opportunity to do so. This study will use numeric SHRP 2 variables to create a data set of vehicle network and kinematic variables during driving epochs in four lighting and weather conditions. Driver behavior will be compared across young, middle-aged and elderly participants. The goal of this study is to understand how driver vehicle control changes across weather and age. Such understanding could lead to improvements in driver training and licensing, roadway/signage design, and/or in-vehicle technology. 

Comparing the Driving Safety Benefits of Brain Fitness Training Programs for Older Drivers

The goal of this project is to evaluate two different training-based approaches to enhancing senior driver safety. Sixty-nine male and female licensed drivers aged 70-85 are being recruited from the New River Valley area of Virginia to participate in an evaluation of the following: 1) A prototype in-vehicle system and 2) A commercially available computer-based application. Both approaches emphasize expanding senior drivers’ useful fields of view and strengthening other visual-cognitive functional abilities (e.g., speed of information processing and the ability to visually track moving objects).

Senior Driver Fitness to Drive

The goal of this project is to use dimension reduction and prospective modeling techniques to determine whether safety-related events found in the VTTI Older Driver Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) data collection could be predicted from assessments of functional ability measured at the outset of participation in the NDS. Preliminary results indicate that contrast sensitivity across spatial frequencies may be sufficient to reliably predict safety-related behaviors/outcomes for senior drivers.

Age-Related Driver Difficulties at Intersections

This ongoing project compares the intersection-related glance behaviors of teens, middle-aged and senior drivers. The research has yielded a clearer picture of age-related differences in making turns at intersections. These differences are distinct for younger drivers and older drivers, and a consistent pattern of behavior has emerged for each age group. The findings have suggested entirely different sources and vulnerabilities to risk during turns. These results can be useful for supporting traffic safety goals via the development of countermeasures for both aging drivers and teen drivers. Furthermore, methods and techniques developed during the project will facilitate future analyses of naturalistic data as they become available from projects such as the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2).

Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Compare the Behaviors of American and Australian Older Drivers Turning at Intersections

This project sought to compare U.S. and Australian senior drivers in terms of their secondary task behavior while traversing intersections. Preliminary results indicate that U.S. seniors have a greater willingness to engage in cell phone-related tasks. However, both groups tended to moderate engagement in a reasonable manner in the presence of more complex driving environments.

Naturalistic Teenage Driving Study

This study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is an 18–month study to better understand the issues associated with newly licensed teenage drivers who are at a much higher crash risk when compared to other drivers.

The Practice Driving Study

This research, sponsored by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, assesses the factors that are important during the practice driving phase when a teenager is driving with a learner's permit. The study will be an observational study of the nine months of the learner's permit (practice driving) phase and then the first six months of independent driving. Driving skill and safety outcomes will also be assessed. The study will be conducted using our naturalistic data collection method and continuous data recording.

Senior Mobility Awareness Symposium

The goal of this symposium was to bring together researchers, advocates, policy makers and hands-on practitioners to discuss the latest issues and findings about senior transportation needs at the local, state and national levels. Speakers represented the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), AARP, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), ITNAmerica and VTTI. Participants were exposed to research and demonstration vehicles. Paid attendees received eight hours of continuing education credits and comprised more than 40 individuals from Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and California.  

Older Driver Naturalistic Driving Study

The goal of this project was to collect continuous driving data and four-channel video from 20 seniors for 12 months each. Participants were assessed on a variety of functional abilities related to driving safety (e.g., visual acuity, flexibility, reaction time and visual-cognitive ability). In addition, a cohort of 20 seniors who recently gave up driving underwent the same functional assessments as the driving participants. The assessment and driving data have subsequently been mined in support of several studies related to fitness to drive and glance-related behaviors at intersections, among others.

Older Pedestrian Safety

This study was undertaken to evaluate past senior pedestrian safety implementations to determine which aspects were successful at enhancing safety, particularly for underrepresented senior populations. To that end, interviews were conducted with 13 experts in the field of senior pedestrian safety. One idea was that educational programs could be used as the key link in the chain of successful prevention strategies.

    Jon Antin

Jon Antin, Ph.D., CHFP, is a Human Factors Research Scientist and Director of the Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety at VTTI. Dr. Antin also serves as the Subject Matter Expert in the Vulnerable Road User area of the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (NSTSCE) at VTTI. He currently leads several senior driver safety projects emphasizing fitness-to-drive modeling, intersection-related behavior and training. He also leads several ongoing naturalistic driving study efforts. Read More