Mohammed Almannaa, a third-year doctoral student in civil
engineering, was named a 2019 Traffic
Safety Scholar and awarded a $1,000 scholarship to attend the 37th annual Lifesavers
National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities in Louisville, Ky. last
weekend. Keeley Greene, a double major in sociology and communication, also
received the award.
During the conference, Almannaa, Greene, and the other
Scholars met with state and national traffic safety leaders, explored career
opportunities with professionals in the public and private sectors, and
participated in plenary sessions and workshops. In its fourth year, the Traffic
Safety Scholars program aims to showcase the diversity of career opportunities
in traffic safety to students.
“When I read about the conference and also about the people
who have applied for this scholarship in the past, I found that they all seemed
so excited that they had this opportunity to attend–to interact with
professionals and engineers. I felt very encouraged to apply,” said Almannaa,
who found out about the scholarship program on social media.
Almannaa presented research he conducted at VTTI about drivers with arthritis for a
statistical methodology course, later published by the Transportation Research
Board. Using video and other sensor data from the Second Strategic Highway
Research Program naturalistic driving study, the largest light-vehicle study of
its kind ever conducted, he and his classmates conducted statistical modeling
to analyze driving differences between individuals with and without arthritis
and to compare their crash risk.
“We found that the
individuals who had arthritis were 72 percent more likely to be involved in a
crash,” he explained. “In our paper, we are suggesting that automakers should
have special assistance systems available. It is very important given that
there are around 54 million people in the United States who have arthritis.”
Almannaa’s statistical methodology for epidemiology and
observational studies class was taught by Feng Guo, lead data scientist at VTTI
and associate professor in the statistics department. Almannaa is also a recent
graduate of the Urban
Computing certificate program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation
and led by Virginia Tech’s Discovery Analytics Center. His advisor is Hesham
Rakha, director of VTTI’s Center for Sustainable Mobility and the Samuel
Reynolds Pritchard Professor of Engineering.
“I would not have received this opportunity without the outstanding
supervision and excellent mentoring from my adviser, Dr. Rakha, since I joined
VTTI in 2014. I have been fortunate to be under his guidance over the past six
years during which I learned how to find a research question, then approach my
question, use the best scientific tools to investigate, analyze the results,
and finally present my work at a conference,” said Almannaa.
As a student whose transportation interests have ranged from
driver safety to traffic
mobility to bike sharing systems throughout his academic career, Almannaa
appreciated the breadth of educational and professional development
opportunities that Lifesavers provided.
“Our issue here in academia is that we are so focused on our
own research. We tend fall short on interacting with others who are not
specializing in our field. I liked the fact that the conference was multidisciplinary
and allowed me to meet and learn from different people outside of my area,”
said Almannaa. “It’s all about exploring.”
The Lifesavers Conference, the nation’s largest gathering of
traffic safety professionals, showcases the latest research, strategies,
countermeasures, and new approaches for addressing the nation’s most pressing
traffic safety problems.
Learn about the
Traffic Safety Scholars program: https://lifesaversconference.org/traffic-safety-scholars/
Learn about the Lifesavers Conference: 37th
annual Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities