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Summer 2014 Vol. 1, No. 2

Research aims to improve left-turn safety at intersections


Nationally, intersection crashes represent one-fifth of all fatal crashes, and most of these are crashes involving left turns. Studies have demonstrated that new flashing yellow arrow signals can help prevent crashes and move more traffic through an intersection. However, this tool raises new questions for traffic engineers, such as when to use a protected “green arrow” left-turn signal and when to use a permitted “flashing yellow arrow” left-turn signal. Roadway Safety Institute research is creating a model to help identify conditions when permitted left-turn treatments would be a good choice and when a protected left turn might be the better option.

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Advancing pedestrian safety through countermeasures that work


Photo courtesy Ron Van Houten

In conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, pedestrians are clearly at a disadvantage. “The driver has the weapon,” said Ron Van Houten, a professor of psychology and a member of the behavior analysis faculty at Western Michigan University. Van Houten, who is also a researcher with the Roadway Safety Institute, has worked extensively in the field of traffic and pedestrian safety and has developed many innovative traffic safety countermeasures. At a recent seminar, Van Houten discussed treatment options that target the behavior of both pedestrians and motorists to improve safety.

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Attracting students for the workforce of tomorrow

red lake tour

Meeting the transportation needs of tomorrow requires attracting students today to degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Two programs this summer brought young people to the University of Minnesota campus to spark their interest in such degrees and learn about possible careers in transportation.

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App for blind pedestrians featured in media

blind pedestrian

Work by Roadway Safety Institute researcher Chen-Fu Liao to improve safety for blind pedestrians was featured this summer in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The new smartphone application, currently in development by the Minnesota Traffic Observatory in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, alerts pedestrians who are blind or have poor vision to construction hazards and gives instructions on how to navigate around them.

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Researcher Spotlight: Gary Davis

Gary Davis

Gary Davis is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota and a researcher for the Roadway Safety Institute. He has worked at the University since 1989. His research interests revolve primarily around traffic safety, and he recently partnered with the Minnesota Traffic Observatory and MnDOT on a study to investigate the safety benefits of flashing LED stop signs and their crash-reducing effects at intersections.

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Researcher Spotlight: Huaguo Zhou and Albert Luo

Hugo Zhou

Huaguo (Hugo) Zhou’s research focuses on improving roadway safety through advanced geometric design, access control, and ITS technologies. Zhou, a leading expert on wrong-way driving crashes, is an associate professor of civil engineering at Auburn University and was with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville from 2008 to 2013. “On average, 360 people are killed each year by wrong-way crashes,” says Zhou. “This trend has been consistent even though the total number of fatal crashes has decreased over the last several decades.”

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Speakers and dates announced for Roadway Safety Institute seminar series

The schedule has been released for the new Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) seminar series. From September 11 through December 4, seminars will be held Thursdays, 3-4 p.m. CST, on the University of Minnesota’s east bank campus in Minneapolis and will also be streamed live on the web.

In the first seminar, “Supporting New Teen Drivers During Independent Driving,” RSI researcher Janet Creaser will provide an overview and preliminary results of a field operational test of the Teen Driver Support System. This smartphone-based system provides real-time, in-vehicle feedback to teen drivers about risky driving behavior and immediately communicates (via text messages) with parents if the behavior continues.

On September 18, RSI researcher Huaguo Zhou will present findings of a project that investigated the causes of wrong-way crashes and identified potential cost-effective countermeasures.

Visit the Roadway Safety Institute website for more details about these and other seminars.

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