Systems spotlight: CSCRS promotes Safe Systems dialogues in Summer Learning Series

In July, CSCRS launched its Safe Systems Summer Learning Series. This series of free virtual events has brought together panelists with diverse perspectives to reflect on core Safe Systems concepts and the broader system in which our transportation work unfolds. The final session in this series will be Change Management Tools for Safe System Implementation, on Friday, August 27. Details on this session:

Time: 1 – 2:30 PM

Becky Naumann, Steve Orton, and Keshia Pollack Porter

Description: As communities seek to adopt more Safe Systems oriented approaches, they are likely to experience policy feedback and unanticipated outcomes. In this session, we explore how communities can equip themselves with more integrated data, adaptive leadership methods, and systems-oriented tools to help them evaluate and better manage the change process.


  • Becky Naumann, Core Faculty at the Injury Prevention Research Center and Assistant Research Professor of Epidemiology, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Steve Orton, Senior Fellow at North Carolina Institute for Public Health and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Keshia Pollack Porter, Professor of Public Health and Vice Dean for Faculty, Johns Hopkins University

Moderator: Kelly Evenson, Professor of Epidemiology, UNC Chapel Hill

Register here

Miss one of the previous sessions? Here are links to the recordings:

See the series website for additional information.

NaTMEC logoCSCRS-hosted NaTMEC 2021 brings record attendance to virtual format

In June, CSCRS hosted the National Travel Monitoring Exposition and Conference (NaTMEC), an event designed to provide travel monitoring professionals and transportation data users a forum to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of multimodal traffic monitoring programs. The theme of the 2021 event was “Connecting Travel Monitoring to Transportation System Safety and Mobility.” Approximately 400 attendees – a record for NaTMEC – participated in the virtual conference. See a recap of NaTMEC 2021.

CSCRS research addresses Tesla safety concerns 

As part of CSCRS project “Safety testing for connected and automated vehicles through physical and digital iterative deployment,” Duke University researchers performed a sequence of tests evaluating the behavior of Tesla Model 3s in various partially automated driving situations. Videos of some of the tests, as well as other interim reports, are available on the project page. Subhadeep Chakraborty, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), is the principal investigator on the project, and Missy Cummings, Duke, and Asad Khattak, UTK, are co-principal investigators.

Cummings has presented on this research in several settings including to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In addition, she and former student Ben Bauchwitz recently co-authored the article “Safety Implications of Variability in Autonomous Driving Assist Alerting,” which is expected to be published in the IEEE journal later this year. She also gives her perspective on the NHTSA probe into Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system in this The Wall Street Journal article.

Education and professional development: CSCRS learning opportunities galore

CSCRS continues to offer and participate in a variety of other learning activities:

CSCRS welcomes new advisory board members

Dana Magliola

Charles T. Brown

CSCRS recently added two new individuals to its Advisory Board:

  • Charles T. Brown, Founder and CEO, Equitable Cities
  • Dana Magliola, Statewide Program Manager, Freight + Logistics, North Carolina Department of Transportation

CSCRS is pleased to add two new, unique perspectives to strengthen the board, which helps direct and guide CSCRS research and tech transfer activities. See the entire Board roster here.

CSCRS bookshelf

“Data Feminism,” Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, The MIT Press

By Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown earned her Masters of City and Regional Planning from DCRP earlier this year. She now works at Kittleson & Associates.

“What information needs to become data before it can be trusted? Or, more precisely, whose information needs to become data before it can be considered as fact and acted upon?”

Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein explore the history and implications of data science and research as a form of power in their book “Data Feminism.” This book is open source through MIT Press and offers strategies for analysts and researchers seeking to learn how to work toward data justice in their projects. But feminism in this context is about much more than gender—it is shorthand for the diverse and wide-ranging projects that name and challenge sexism and other forces of oppression, as well as strategies which seek to create more just, equitable, and livable futures.

This book works through a foundation of intersectionality (coined by Kimberle Crenshaw), and intersectional feminism – how race, class, sexuality, ability, age, religion, geography, and more are factors that together influence each person’s experience and opportunities in the world and how this in turn impacts data science work. The authors strongly put forth a spacious definition of data science; it is not just numbers – data can also consist of words or stories, colors or sounds, or any type of information that is systematically collected, organized, and analyzed; the science in data science implies any type of commitment to systematic methods of observation and experiment.

Other CSCRS highlights

A quick rundown of additional recent CSCRS activities:

  • In summer 2021, the University of California, Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) worked with CSCRS Advisory Board partners Vision Zero Network and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) to conduct a two-part virtual “Speed Management for Safety Workshop” with three California communities: Kern County, Oakland, and Palmdale.
  • The inaugural NC Vision Zero Leadership Team Institute, co-managed by UNC and NC Vision Zero with support from CSCRS, was held in June 2021. The virtual event hosted eight invited teams of Vision Zero communities for a deep dive into systems-thinking and to work through complex problems. Discussion themes included “Build skills for analyzing and leading systems change through multisector collaborations” and “Co-Creating Equitable Transportation Systems.”
  • Asad Khattak, UTK, co-authored the journal article “Analyzing drivers’ hazard recognition: Precursors to single-vehicle collisions” for the September 2021 edition of Accident Analysis & Prevention.
  • Wes Kumfer, HSRC, is the Transport Safety Section Editor for the upcoming article collection “Vision Zero: The safe system approach and traffic safety culture” for the journal Frontiers in Future Transportation. Abstracts are due November 21, 2021– additional details are available. 

Partner resources

Opportunities provided by partners of CSCRS:

Collaborator profile: Seth LaJeunesse

Seth LaJeunesse

CSCRS is excited to feature researcher Seth LaJeunesse, Senior Research Associate, HSRC, in this issue’s collaborator profile. LaJeunesse is the principal investigator for the CSCRS projects “Structures of stakeholder relationships in making road safety decisions,” “Factors and frames that shape public discourse around road user safety,” and “Assessing how private beliefs conflict with public action on Safe Systems.” In addition to his CSCRS work, he is the Associate Director of HSRC’s Health and Community Sciences group.

Crossroads: Why do you believe it is important to create a new approach to researching road safety, and what does a systems approach to road safety mean to you?

LaJeunesse: It’s clear that the status quo approach to researching road safety isn’t working for many people, and it’s utterly failing some people. The United States sustains several times more deaths and injuries per population than other wealthier countries in the global north. Though only through sound extant research do we know about the racial and socioeconomic inequities in physical activity affordance, access to employment and essential services, exposure to pollution, flooding, heat islands, and in road injury fragments in our country, a new approach—a systems approach—is needed.

A systems approach conceptualizes the entirety of these complex safety problems via systems thinking and tools. It looks beyond hyper-incrementalism (e.g., adding one more variable to an established crash prediction model) and toward upstream patterns of feedback and power dynamics across social, physical, and political systems that maintain the status quo. As such, a systems approach opens up an entire world of research on complex dynamics, promising leverage points to introduce potent policies and practices to produce cascading effects across the systems that sustain inequitable traffic injury, and novel regimes of monitoring system performance that improve decision-making by rendering visible and otherwise palpable, the prospective impacts of various policy and practice decisions.

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

LaJeunesse: The disciplines I bring to road safety research include psychology—and social science more generally—and city planning. The social sciences can bring and has brought to the field of road safety research a deeper, more nuanced understanding of humans and social groups’ abilities, limitations (e.g., Graduated Drivers Licensing), aspirations, capacity to change under certain conditions, and the social-cultural factors driving many of the patterns we can observe in the system. For example, anthropological, sociological, and psychological theory and methods can shed light on such questions as, why do agencies continue expanding roadways despite the known realities of induced demand? Why is traveling at high speeds so common and normalized? And what kinds and degrees of social pressure contributes to fairer, more just, and inclusive decision-making?

Crossroads: How can the work you’re doing through CSCRS help move the profession out of the status quo?

LaJeunesse: Considering racist legacies in planning and engineering and policymaking, and the various path dependencies borne from standards of practice (e.g., the MUTCD, federal funding programs), moving out of the status quo will require significant time, deeper understanding of the levers of change in systems, and coordinated action among partners, both traditional (e.g., engineers and planners) and not yet truly engaged (e.g., affordable housing groups, social service agencies).

I’m working with colleagues on elements of these requirements, such as our Governor’s Highway Safety Program-sponsored North Carolina’s Vision Zero program where we offer Vision Zero-adopting municipalities in NC tailored coaching, resources and tools, opportunities to exchange insights with their peers, group upskilling in systems thinking and coalition building, and program evaluation support. Another CSCRS-funded project involved working with our colleagues at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media to explore patterns of reporting on traffic crashes in broadcast TV news, discerning that it could be impactful for engineers, planners, and public health professionals to begin working more with local journalists to help frame traffic injury as problematic, addressable, and with solutions that benefit everyone.

Crossroads: What advice would you give to up-and-coming researchers in your field?

LaJeunesse: My primary advice to up-and-coming researchers is to assert your considered research ideas, practice open-mindedness, foster skill in seeing connections between your work and role in the system and others’ work and roles in the system. Work within existing funding structures, while challenging ones that devalue community insight and involvement in research. Perceive community elders as research partners who can lend any project valuable perceptive. Reach out to fellow researchers whose work resonates with your passions and interests. Partnerships built upon shared affinities can prove long-lasting and provide tremendous value in terms of ideating, connecting with a broader network of researchers, and promoting your work, to name a few cross-cutting benefits.


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