You’re invited to Safety Sunday @ TRB

Going to the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 102nd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC? Please join CSCRS for our Safety Sunday @ TRB reception, Sunday, January 8, 2023, 5 – 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. This event will bring together diverse entities to network and discuss critical themes in transportation safety research and practice. The reception will be held in Marquis Salon 4 (M2) at the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC.

Promotional image with details of the Safety Sunday @ TRB event in January 2023.


Do you want to know where and when to learn about integrating Safe System principles into road safety while at TRB? This list shows all CSCRS TRB sessions, including workshops, lectern sessions, posters and more, that cover the gamut of Safe System topics.

Aqshems Nichols

2022 CSCRS Student of the Year, Aqshems Nichols

CSCRS is proud to announce Aqshems Nichols, a University of California, Berkeley (UCB) civil engineering doctoral student with a focus on transportation engineering, as its 2022 Outstanding Student of the Year. Nichols will be honored on January 7, 2023, during the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Awards Banquet. CSCRS selected Nichols as its outstanding student as part of a U.S. Department of Transportation program honoring students from University Transportation Centers who have demonstrated achievements in academic performance, research, leadership, professionalism, and potential future contributions in the transportation field. Read more about Aqshems.  

Brief insights into how to launch a Vision Zero initiative

CSCRS researchers created four new research briefs outlining considerations to launch Vision Zero initiatives. The briefs share research from CSCRS research projects R17: Strengthening Existing and Facilitating New Vision Zero Plans and RR2:US Vision Zero Implementation, and cover the following areas:

The resources are available to assist communities working on Vision Zero initiatives. Other CSCRS resources related to Vision Zero are also available on the R17 project page and Creating Safer Systems and Healthier Communities: Resource Hub.  

Systems spotlight: Two CSCRS fall online seminars explore what’s wrong and what’s right with Safe System implementation

The November and December 2022 Research to Practice Bytes sessions dove deep into how to get Safe Systems both wrong and right. The November 16 session outlined 10 common pitfalls of Safe System implementation, and the December 14 session continued the discussion by answering participants’ questions and offering real-life examples of communities innovating their ways to authentic Safe System approaches. Both sessions featured presenters Eric Dumbaugh, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and Seth LaJeunesse, UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC). Recordings and other materials from these sessions are available on the series website.  

Education and professional development: CSCRS showcases multiple learning opportunities

CSCRS continues to provide and participate in a variety of learning activities including:

UNC team to lead Road to Zero Coalition Safe System Working Group

The Road to Zero Coalition asked CSCRS’s collaborative UNC team of HSRC, IPRC, and the Department of City and Regional Planning to assume leadership of its Safe System Working Group. CSCRS researchers at UNC have been members of the working group for years under ITE’s leadership and have supported the coalition’s effort to compile Safe System resources and embed the Safe System concept into roadway safety practice. When leading the working group, the UNC team will aim to disseminate the very best Safe System-aligned practices to practitioners and the public throughout the United States, connect communities to Safe System technical expertise, and dispel myths and identify barriers to Safe System implementation. Other members of the working group include several CSCRS Advisory Board members.

Dr. Subhadeep Chakraborty

Subhadeep Chakraborty

Collaborator profile: Subhadeep Chakraborty

CSCRS is excited to profile researcher Subhadeep Chakraborty in this newsletter. Chakraborty is an Associate Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). He is the principal investigator on CSCRS projects R27: Safety Testing for Connected and Automated Vehicles through Physical and Digital Iterative Deployment and R43: Applying AI to data sources to improve driver-pedestrian interactions at intersections.

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

Chakraborty: I have always wanted to do socially relevant research. Research that has a good balance of innovation, imagination, and practicality motivates me. I had been working on machine learning for complex engineering systems for several years, when the revolution in deep-learning, self-driving cars and intelligent transportation systems took the world by storm. I started learning about the transportation aspects from my excellent (and very patient) collaborators at UTK and CSCRS and the more I learned, the more I started to appreciate the nuances of this people-centric domain.

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

Chakraborty: The transportation system is made up of many interconnected components that work together. To a systems engineer such as myself, a systems approach to road safety means that these components need to be optimized to improve efficiency systemwide while constrained to guarantee safety, also systemwide. This approach is not new – historically, traffic infrastructure, vehicles, pedestrians and other VRUs each has always played a role in road safety – but now, the mechanism that dictates the rules of engagement between these entities are very much influx, which makes for exciting opportunities but may also have quite drastic consequences. For example, eye contact with drivers, which has been the age-old indicator of safe road crossing makes no sense anymore for Level 5 driverless cars.

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

Chakraborty: Driverless cars function based on a complex pipeline of computer vision, object recognition, behavior estimation and trajectory planning even before actuation commands are sent to the ECU via the CAN Bus. Performance of these software driven cars are quite intrinsic to the safety of traffic and pedestrians around such vehicles. My research focuses on providing performance guarantees, or at least performance bounds that can be used to make the operation of these vehicles safer. Similarly, pedestrian detection using cameras can play a big part in adaptive signal phasing which can make intersections safer for VRUs.

Crossroads: How have you integrated perspectives from other fields into your own work?

Chakraborty: This is such an interdisciplinary field; it is almost impossible to be constrained to one particular domain. Human factors research principles work its way into transportation questions all the time, statistics and large data analysis are an important part of our toolkit. Deep learning is one of the main tools we are using to determine the operational envelopes of driverless cars. Recently, there seems to be a drive towards formal methods as a quantifiable path towards self-driving certification.

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

Chakraborty: This is a difficult question. As researchers we tend to focus on smaller technical challenges, which over many years cumulatively lead to produce big system wide changes. However, the pace of advancements in this particular field has been astonishing in recent years. I believe that my research may in a small way contribute to answer one of the most challenging questions in the field of autonomous vehicles safety – that of navigating “unknown unknowns”.

CAVs work based on training deep neural nets with hundreds and thousands of frames of data, but it is impossible to predict how this training will perform when confronted with something previously unseen. To answer this question, we need a model for the error produced by the vision system which is a tremendously difficult task in general. With the use of some synthetic data producing technique and a novel way of modeling error, this critical problem may be tackled, which should go a long way in producing some safety guarantees for these systems.

Crossroads: What ideas do you have for practical applications of road safety research?

Chakraborty: The quickest path for seeing the effect of road safety research in practice, based on my area of work is in making pedestrian detection systems more robust. This has implications in both self-driving cars and also in intersection monitoring systems. If such detection systems are robust enough to work in challenging environmental conditions, such as snow, rain, darkness, partial occlusions, etc. and if they work fast enough on edge computing devices, large impacts on VRU safety can be achieved.

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

Chakraborty: My best advice to up-and-coming researchers is – reach out. I took the chance and reached out to some of the most brilliant people in the field. As long as we bring our innovative ideas and are willing to share, this community is one of collaboration and collegiality, something that I am proud to be part of. 

Other CSCRS highlights

A quick rundown of additional recent CSCRS activities:

Come work with us!

CSCRS headquarters HSRC is hiring for two open positions:

  • Post-Doc Research Associate: This one-year position based in Chapel Hill, NC, will focus on analysis and interpretation of population-based datasets; the development of community-centered, evidence-based transportation safety interventions; and the application of harm reduction principles to drug and alcohol impaired driving. The hiring committee will begin reviewing applications in early 2023.
  • Research Technician: This limited, three-year position based in Washington, DC, will involve studying trail traffic (primarily bicycling and walking) on the regional trails of the DC metro area in collaboration with the National Parks Service and local city, county, and state transportation and parks departments. The application deadline is January 3, 2023.  

CSCRS partner activities and resources

Here is an update on activities and resources from CSCRS partners:

  • The Vision Zero Network coordinated the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on November 20, 2022. More than 60 communities across the U.S. led actions that day calling attention to the road safety crisis.
  • The National Safety Council announced that applications are open for the latest round of Road to Zero Community Traffic Safety Grants. Funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), these grants support projects, programs and research that put the Road to Zero strategy into practice and help achieve the mission of zero traffic deaths. (The application deadline is January 6, 2023.)
  • ITE announced its new course “Implementing the Safe System Approach,” which will take place starting January 18, 2023. The course will consist of pre-recorded modules delivered by subject matter experts and four live instructor-led discussion sessions. (The course costs $500 for ITE members and $750 for non-members.)
  • The National EMS Information System Technical Assistance Center, in collaboration with NHTSA’s Office of EMS, has developed “The Post-Crash Care: EMS Response to MVC-Related Injuries” report, a resource to understand the scope and quantify the impact of motor vehicle crash-related injuries that generate an EMS response.

CSCRS bookshelf

“Journalists Should Stress Agency in Reporting on Traffic Crashes, States New Media Guidelines,” Carlton Reid, Forbes, September 28, 2020 

By Monique Williams

Monique Williams is a graduate communications assistant at HSRC focusing on transportation safety, road safety, and pedestrian safety, along with social media analytics. She is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. In her spare time, she enjoys reading romance novels and writing poetry.

Carlton Reid’s timely “Journalists Should Stress Agency in Reporting on Traffic Crashes, States New Media Guidelines” is a necessary read for researchers and journalists who cover road traffic incidents. Reid brings the media perspective to life on traffic safety in his article. He highlights how “agency-less reporting” of road traffic incidents affects public safety perception.

Reid explores news coverage of “car accidents” and the impact of language. He says, “Planes do not slam into the ground accidentally, they crash. However, such language is not always used for road smashes: they are often described as ‘accidents,’ as though no one was at fault.” Essentially, referring to car crashes as “accidents” removes fault or blame from the individual operating the vehicle; therefore, affecting the perception on how road crashes occur. He cites earlier research that contends, “News articles about road crashes referred to a vehicle in 81% of cases but referred to a driver just 19% of the time.”

He includes a video that breaks down the verbiage of “crash, not accident” and what it entails. Additionally, Reid points out, “Associated Press Style Guide changed to encourage journalists to use ‘crash, collision, or other terms’ instead of ‘accident.’” Moving forward, Reid encourages journalists to include agency in stories regarding road crashes.


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