Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety
The Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety (CVRUS) conducts research and outreach designed to enhance safety for all vulnerable road users, including senior and teen drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Vulnerable road users comprise all age groups and a variety of demographics. Their one shared trait is an increased risk of suffering a traffic-related crash or injury. The center includes the Teen Risk and Injury Prevention group and the Senior Mobility Awareness, Safety, and Health group. Research includes a naturalistic driving study of novice teen drivers with the aim of providing real-time feedback, gathering information for driver training, and keeping teens’ parents informed. The Center has undertaken outreach initiatives designed to provide recommendations for coordinating public and private services for the aged, disabled, and indigent populations.
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 systems (DASs), which are 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; however, the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) data set provides an unprecedented opportunity to do so. This study will use SHRP 2 data to create a 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 with the goal of understanding how driver vehicle control changes across weather and age. Such an understanding could lead to improvements in driver training and licensing, roadway/signage design, and 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: 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 VTTI's Older Driver Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) data set 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.
Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Compare the Behaviors of American and Australian Older Drivers Turning at Intersections
This project sought to compare senior drivers in the U.S and Australia in terms of their secondary task behavior while traversing intersections. Preliminary results indicate that seniors in the U.S. are more willing to 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 aimed at better understanding the issues associated with newly licensed teenage drivers, who are at a much higher crash risk compared to other drivers.
Virginia Licensing Ceremony
VTTI researchers have created a presentation for Virginia judges to use during the licensing ceremony that all teens and parents in Virginia must attend for teens to receive their license. The goal is to provide research about the greatest driving risks for teens and what countermeasures have been shown to reduce risk.
Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
VTTI researchers developed a Parent-Teen driving agreement for Ford Driving Skills for Life program. This agreement is adapted from Checkpoints Program developed by Bruce-Simons Morton at National Institute of Child Health Development. Consider using this agreement when your teen starts to drive independently.
Senior Mobility Awareness, Safety, and Health Group
The Senior Mobility Awareness, Safety, and Health (SMASH) Group, led by Jon Antin, conducts research and outreach activities focused on enhancing the safe mobility of seniors, whether they are private vehicle drivers, passengers, transit/alternative transportation users, or pedestrians. Our society and many around the globe are rapidly aging and are expected to continue to do so for several decades. In addition to this undeniable demographic trend, we must also consider the following facts: 1) the personal vehicle is still the primary means of transportation and independence in the U.S.; (2) senior drivers aged 75 and older are greatly over-represented in crash rates on a per-mile-driven basis; and (3) the typically increased degree of fragility seen in seniors greatly magnifies their risk of injury or death for any level of crash severity compared to that experienced by younger occupants. Therefore, it is imperative to conduct research and outreach activities in this area, especially within the context of evolving transportation technology. The activities of the SMASH group have been reported in local newspapers and articles distributed by national media outlets.
Teen Risk and Injury Prevention
The Teen Risk and Injury Prevention (TRIP) Group, led by Charlie Klauer, is focused on improving our knowledge of the risks faced by novice drivers and identifying ways to improve novice driver safety. Novice drivers are over-represented in our nation’s fatality and injury crash statistics. One out of every five young drivers in the U.S. is involved in a collision within the first six months of driving. The TRIP group is dedicated to improving these statistics and preserving our nation’s youth.
To improve teen driving safety, we work to educate the public about teen driving risks and the best methods of alleviating these risks. We have formed partnerships with the Montgomery, Bedford, and Roanoke County Public school districts and participate in Parent/Teen Safe Driving Meetings. At these meetings, members of TRIP present to parents and teenaged drivers about the safety benefits of developing a Parent/Teen Driving Contract. We also present our research results at transportation conferences (e.g., the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting) along with advocacy and policy conferences (e.g., LifeSavers Conference, Governor’s Highway Safety Conference). TRIP group members have participated in several safe driving documentaries and national news stories featured on the Discovery Channel, 20/20, 60 Minutes – Australia and other national evening news programs.