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ODU's Porter Chosen Again for Highway Safety Research Projects

Bryan Porter

The commonwealth is looking again to Old Dominion University psychologist Bryan Porter to help develop new programs to promote highway safety, as well as to strengthen existing initiatives.

Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles announced two awards this month to Porter's research team at ODU. One focusing on safety-belt use and impaired driving in high-risk regions of Virginia is for $200,247, and another involving the calculation of the official state belt use rate is for $89,614.

Porter, an associate professor, is an expert on the psychological underpinnings of dangerous driving habits. He is known internationally for his work assessing and promoting automatic photo-enforcement to reduce red-light running. His research group also has helped the state to evaluate a "Click It or Ticket" program to encourage use of safety belts.

The researcher said the impaired driving portion of the work will be led by Krystall Dunaway, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, who is a subcontractor on the first award. Dunaway was a doctoral student advised by Porter.

Work on the larger project involving both safety belt use and impaired driving takes aim at four main objectives, according to Porter:

• To provide expertise to the Virginia DMV for statewide driver safety program initiatives. Both impaired driving and safety-belt use are included here. "While we must work in partnership with DMV and local officials to set appropriate outcome goals, we expect to assist with efforts to increase targeted areas' restraint use by two percent," Porter explained. "We also expect to assist in programs designed to increase the number of designated drivers."

• To evaluate specific existing programs. "Our evaluation activities will provide data for DMV administrators to assess the effectiveness of programs so that those programs can be disseminated more widely, refined or, perhaps, even eliminated in favor of alternative approaches," Porter said.

• To assist in finding measures specifically applicable to high-risk areas, such as to rural areas where safety-belt use lags.

• To work with law enforcement officials whose personal beliefs about personal restraint use or impaired driving may limit their effective participation in programs such as "Click It or Ticket."

"The safety-belt efforts continue those we've been doing since the mid-2000s," Porter said. "That involves identifying high-risk areas, collecting field observations to assess trends as a result of interventions, and working with the DMV and law enforcement officials on strategies - tailored to driver characteristics in particular areas - to increase belt use."

The impaired driving component is funded for the ODU researchers for the first time in several years, according to Porter. "This work will be more formative than the safety-belt efforts. Much more developmental work via crash-record analysis, focus groups with police and others, and development of field observation methods are required. It is highly likely, however, that areas targeted by our safety-belt work will be simultaneously targeted for impaired driving, as these two behaviors are related."

This article was posted on: October 27, 2010

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