Introducing CSCRS Crossroads

We are pleased to release the first issue of the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety newsletter, CSCRS Crossroads, which reports on activities and news surrounding CSCRS’s cross-disciplinary research, education and professional development endeavors. This quarterly newsletter will keep CSCRS stakeholders like you informed of current and upcoming research and educational activities.

CSCRS hit the ground running when its U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center award was announced in December 2016. This newsletter explores our accomplishments to date including forming an advisory board, announcing new research projects and spreading the news about CSCRS at transportation safety-related events. It also includes an interview with CSCRS Associate Director Dr. Offer Grembek of the University of California, Berkeley; interviews with key team members will be regular features of upcoming issues of CSCRS Crossroads.

A major goal of CSCRS is to expand beyond traditional “transportation audiences,” and that desire extends to the distribution of our newsletter. Please share this new resource with colleagues, peers and friends in the fields of engineering, public health, computer science, planning, robotics and data science. If you received this newsletter because someone forwarded it to you, please subscribe here.

What is a University Transportation Center?

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched the University Transportation Center Program in 1988 under the direction of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987. At that time, US DOT awarded grants for UTCs in the standard Federal regions with the purpose of promoting research.

According to the US DOT website, “DOT invests in the future of transportation through its UTC Program, which awards and administers grants to consortia of colleges and universities across the United States. The UTC Program advances the state-of-the-art in transportation research and technology, and develops the next generation of transportation professionals.”

Since 1988, the program has been reauthorized every few years into different iterations. The UTCs announced in December 2016, including CSCRS, were authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which was signed into law in December 2015 and specified six research priorities for UTCs: improving mobility; reducing congestion; promoting safety; improving transportation infrastructure; preserving the environment; and preserving the existing transportation system.

In a December 2016 statement about the newly awarded UTCs, then U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explained, “Our nation faces unprecedented challenges from population growth, a changing climate, and increasing freight volumes. Universities are at the forefront of identifying solutions, researching critical emerging issues, and ensuring improved access to opportunity for all Americans.”

To learn more about the history of the UTC program, visit here.

Building a winning team: CSCRS Advisory Board and Executive Committee

CSCRS is led by an impressive team of industry thought leaders, university researchers and seasoned professionals to assist in both honing our strategic direction and managing every day work and activities.

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board offers executive-level guidance and big picture input on the CSCRS vision and priorities. Thank you to those who have agreed to serve as founding members of the CSCRS Advisory Board including:

  • Linda Bailey, executive director, National Association of City Transportation Officials;
  • Ann Dellinger, branch chief, Home, Recreation, and Transportation Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control;
  • Dia Gainor, executive director, National Association of State EMS Officials;
  • Chuck Gulash, director, Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center;
  • Jeff Paniati, CEO and executive director, Institute of Transportation Engineers;
  • Heather Rothenberg, lead, Trust and Safety Research, Uber
  • Leah Shahum, director, Vision Zero Network;
  • Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor, School of Law, University of South Carolina; and
  • David Yang, executive director, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The Advisory Board will hold its first meeting in summer 2017 to discuss priorities for the Center.

Executive Committee

The CSCRS Executive Committee unites leading transportation research, planning, public health, data science and engineering programs and personnel from each of our consortium member university campuses. David Harkey, UNC Highway Safety Research Center, leads CSCRS as Center director, and the CSCRS associate director team is comprised of:

  • Michael Clamann, Humans and Autonomy Lab, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University;
  • Eric Dumbaugh, School of Urban & Regional Planning, Florida Atlantic University;
  • Offer Grembek, Safe Transportation Research & Education Center, University of California, Berkeley;
  • Asad Khattak, Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville;
  • Stephen Marshall, UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and
  • Noreen McDonald, Department of City & Regional Planning, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


Additional CSCRS key personnel include Laura Sandt, research programs manager, and Caroline Mozingo, education & outreach programs manager, both of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

For more about the CSCRS team, visit

CSCRS research underway with first eight projects

In March, CSCRS announced eight research grant awards for 2017. CSCRS selected the research proposals from across the Center’s five consortium campuses. These first eight “quick start” projects were proposed, selected and initiated within three months of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill receiving the National University Transportation Center grant in December 2016. Projects awarded cover topics that closely fit within the Center’s goals and provide opportunities to engage staff and professionals working in several disciplines including public health, engineering, planning, data science and robotics.

The selected projects include:

For more on these initial CSCRS research projects, visit

Offer Grembek

Collaborator Profile: Offer Grembek

CSCRS will feature an interview with a key member of the CSCRS team in every issue of CSCRS Crossroads. For this first issue, we are pleased to introduce CSCRS Associate Director Offer Grembek of the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to serving as the co‐director of UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, Dr. Grembek is a member of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation Safety Management, and the co‐chair of the TRB Global Road Safety Subcommittee.

Crossroads: How did you get involved in road safety research?

Grembek: I have always been fascinated with transportation science, and specifically with the human aspect of it. Road safety research focuses on people’s behavior with respect to risk, so it was an obvious area of interest for me. I first got involved in road safety research when I was a graduate student at Cal, where I worked on research to prevent red light-running collisions. For my dissertation work, I went on to study user adaptation to injury protection systems, and have continued to focus on safety research since. I strongly believe that safety research has the most interesting and challenging problems to study.

Crossroads: What does a systems approach to road safety mean to you?

Grembek: Severe and fatal injuries can be thought of as the terminal outcomes of a series of unfortunate events (as opposed to a single crash factor). Therefore, in my mind, a systems approach describes all of the elements that are needed to build a transportation system on which road users cannot be severely or fatally injured. To accomplish this, it is necessary to establish safety buffers that are large enough to contain hazardous situations that may arise from undesirable road user behavior or other sources of risk. The safety buffers should be embedded across the main components of the system including roadway design, vehicle design, policies to encourage safe road user behavior and post-crash procedures. Accordingly, a systems approach needs to incorporate methods and considerations from different disciplines to jointly provide the required safety buffers. Disciplines such as planning, engineering, public health, data science and robotics can provide the effective redundancy to study what these safety buffers should be, as well as what is needed to meet such goals.

Crossroads: What can your discipline bring to road safety research?

Grembek: As transportation engineers our training emphasizes problem-solving skills. As opposed to disciplines who rely heavily on foundational knowledge, engineers commonly develop a set of defensible assumptions, and then solve the problem at hand.  This allows engineers to develop analytical and statistical tools to address road safety problem.

Crossroads: Where would you like to see the field of transportation safety in five years?

Grembek: I would like to see a paradigm shift that emphasizes the desirable attributes of a multimodal safe system. I would also like to see more studies that establish an association between actual crashes and safety surrogates since it would introduce a new layer of safety data that opens up many promising opportunities. Lastly, I would also want to see data science approaches that allow us to effectively utilize the rapidly growing big data sets.

Crossroads: What’s the most rewarding thing that’s happened during your research career?

Grembek: When research gets translated into practice.

View Dr. Grembek’s full biography here.


CSCRS on the go

CSCRS is already part of the conversation at in-person transportation events, and we will continue to attend relevant conferences and meetings to forge connections with transportation, public health, computer science and other peers. The following are road safety events that CSCRS staff recently attended and will attend over the next several months:

March 26-28, 2017
Charlotte, N.C.

Summit of University Transportation Centers for Safety
April 6, 2017
Washington, D.C.

2017 CUTC Annual Summer Meeting
June 19-21, 2017
Buffalo, N.Y.

Automated Vehicles Symposium 
July 11-13, 2017
San Francisco, Calif.

5th Annual UTC Conference
November 16-17, 2017
Gainesville, Fla.



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