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Traffic Safety Researcher Porter Gets Grant for Seat-Belt Study

Bryan Porter

Seat belt use is believed to lag behind the average in rural areas of Virginia, and Old Dominion University researcher Bryan Porter has been commissioned to study the problem.

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine announced earlier this month the distribution of $17 million in federal funds to promote traffic safety, and Porter leads an ODU research team that will get nearly $200,000. Recipients include most of the state's localities, state agencies, non-profit groups and educational institutions.

Porter, associate professor of psychology, is known internationally for his research into the psychological underpinnings of dangerous driving habits. His work has assessed automatic photo-enforcement to reduce red-light running, and he also has been commissioned by the state to help bolster the "Click It or Ticket" program to encourage seatbelt use, as well as anti-drunk driving initiatives.

The ODU professor is regularly featured as a source for traffic-safety media reports. The Washington Post quoted him in its story of Sept. 10 about the governor's latest distribution of funds for programs aimed at encouraging safe driving.

Porter told the Post that these programs, such as "Click It or Ticket," help explain why the state's roads are getting safer.

"It's a combination of higher seat-belt use, better technology in the cars, probably better roads and possibly people slowing down to conserve gas," he told the Post. "Wearing a safety belt is the easiest thing a passenger or driver can do to increase their odds of surviving a crash."

Nevertheless, he said, national and state statistics show that 15 to 20 percent of drivers do not buckle up.

The latest grant will support efforts of Porter's research group to identify portions of the state, typically rural areas, where drivers are less likely to use seat belts. The team will continue work already underway to develop awareness campaigns and enforcement strategies to promote safe driving.

This article was posted on: September 11, 2009

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