Blog Archives

Camp session introduces White Earth Nation students to transportation

Last week, the Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) introduced White Earth Nation students to transportation-related topics as part of the White Earth Indian Reservation Summer Academy of Math and Science.

The two-week day camp uses hands-on learning and Indian culture to teach students in grades 4 to 8 about math, science, and engineering. It is offered in partnership by the White Earth Nation and the University of Minnesota Extension. This is the third year that RSI has participated in the program.

Posted in Education, Safety

What’s really behind rear-end highway crashes?

Congested vehicle traffic on a freewayRear-end crashes are a major cause of highway traffic slowdowns, and preventing these congestion-causing incidents requires a clear understanding of why they occur in the first place. On the surface, it might seem like the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is the primary cause of the collision; however, the reality is much more complex.

In a new study, U of M researchers found that because shockwaves—areas of suddenly stopping or slowing traffic—are usually the cause of rear-end collisions on highways, drivers at the front of a group of cars may have as much or more to do with the rear-end collisions happening at the back of the group than those involved in the crashes themselves.

Posted in Safety, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Reducing speeds to improve safety for work-zone flaggers

Work-zone flagger holding a stop sign up for cars as they approach a construction zoneWhen drivers approach a roadway work zone at high speeds, they put the lives of work-zone flaggers at risk. To keep flaggers safe on the job, U of M researchers are looking for better ways to capture drivers’ attention—and compel them to slow down—as they approach flagger-controlled work zones.

Kathleen Harder, director of the Center for Design in Health, and John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, identified and tested new work-zone warning elements to more effectively capture and sustain driver attention. The project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.

Posted in Construction, Safety, Traffic operations, Transportation research

New work-zone warning app featured on KARE 11

KARE 11 reporters interviewing researcher Chen-Fu Liao next to a highway work zone.A new app that sends warning messages to drivers as they approach work zones was featured on KARE 11 News on Thursday. The app was developed by U of M researchers in a project sponsored by MnDOT.

The story aired as part of KARE 11’s #eyesUP campaign to end distracted driving.

The app works by pairing with Bluetooth low-energy tags placed in work zones, triggering audio warnings in smartphones that are within their range. This allows drivers to get a warning message without having to look down at their phones—or at warning devices such as changeable message signs outside their vehicles.

Posted in Construction, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Charting a path toward automated speed enforcement

ASEIn the United States, speeding is by far the leading factor in fatal crashes—equivalent to the use of drugs, alcohol, medication, and distracted driving combined. But although automated speed enforcement (ASE) is a promising countermeasure shown to reduce speeding and crashes, the idea remains contentious.

“Despite the demonstrated safety benefits of ASE, we’ve seen its deployment continue to be a highly controversial issue,” says Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Several states have enacted restrictions or even banned the use of ASE systems, and ASE has been rejected in a number of public referendums.”

To chart a possible path to ASE deployment, U of M researchers have completed a new study focusing on ASE in Minnesota. The research team included Douma, graduate research assistant Colleen Peterson with the Humphrey School, and Nichole Morris, principal researcher with the HumanFIRST Lab. The project was funded by the Roadway Safety Institute.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Is there safety in numbers for bicycles in Minneapolis?

bicyclist in MinneapolisIn observance of National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week 2017, Brendan Murphy of the U of M’s Accessibility Observatory shares his work on bicyclist safety in Minneapolis in this guest post.

More people are biking or walking to work in North American cities each year, including here in the Twin Cities. With increased biking and walking, more opportunities for conflict with cars exist, and the safety of our more vulnerable road users becomes an increasingly important consideration.

The goal of this study, funded by the Roadway Safety Institute, was to attempt to predict crash rates between cars and bicycles at street intersections in Minneapolis—based on car and bike traffic levels—and then assess whether areas of the city exist that have much higher per-bicyclist crash rates.

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Posted in Bicycling, Safety, Transportation research

Work-zone warnings could soon be delivered to your smartphone

Photo of a work zoneImagine that you’re driving to work as usual when your smartphone announces, “Caution, you are approaching an active work zone.” You slow down and soon spot orange barrels and highway workers on the road shoulder. Thanks to a new app being developed by University of Minnesota researchers, this scenario is on its way to becoming reality.

“Drivers often rely on signs along the roadway to be cautious and slow down as they approach a work zone. However, most work-zone crashes are caused by drivers not paying attention,” says Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer at the U’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “That’s why we are working to design and test an in-vehicle work-zone alert system that announces additional messages through the driver’s smartphone or the vehicle’s infotainment system.”

As part of the project, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Liao and his team investigated the use of inexpensive Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags to provide in-vehicle warning messages. The BLE tags were programmed to trigger spoken messages in smartphones within range of the tags, which were placed on construction barrels or lampposts ahead of a work zone.

Posted in Construction, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research
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