CSCRS student researcher explores connections between transportation safety and structural racism

What is the relationship between structural racism and disparities in transportation safety outcomes? That question was the research focus of CSCRS graduate research assistant Nandi Taylor, a Ph.D. student in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Epidemiology. Working with de Beaumont Foundation and UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) researchers, Taylor was the lead author on the journal article “Structural Racism and Pedestrian Safety: Measuring the Association Between Historical Redlining and Contemporary Pedestrian Fatalities Across the United States, 2010‒2019,” for the American Journal of Public Health. Her work was also highlighted in an April 2023 op-ed in The New York Times and a March 2023 Streetsblog USA post, and she presented on her work at the Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research conference in April 2023.

Taylor’s other work at HSRC includes analyzing linked North Carolina crash and trauma registry data for a project with a goal of characterizing the limitations of the KABCO Injury Classification Scale to accurately measure injury severity, as well as other projects related to the intersection of public health, health equity, and transportation safety.

Here’s Taylor in her own words:

Highlighting more CSCRS student accomplishments

CSCRS students have been busy and recognized for a variety of road safety projects:

Student story retracted

CSCRS apologizes that a story in this edition showcasing the work of one of our students appears to have included mistakes. We are currently investigating the information contained in the article.

Honoring the life of CSCRS colleague David Ragland, a giant in the field of public health and traffic safety

David Ragland

David Ragland

We are deeply saddened by the news that our CSCRS research colleague and friend David Ragland, founder and Co-Director of the UCB Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), died on May 7, 2023. Ragland, who was also professor emeritus of epidemiology at UCB’s School of Public Health, was a transportation injury research visionary, bringing together the public health and engineering perspectives long before a “systems” approach was popular. We are so fortunate to have been able to work with him as part of the CSCRS consortium, and know he will be missed by all of his colleagues and friends in the field.

Our friends at SafeTREC created this moving tribute page in his honor.

Focus on CSCRS education and professional development

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

  • The North Carolina Vision Zero Support Team (comprised of CSCRS researchers from IPRC, HSRC, and Gillings School of Global Public Health) will host the third annual NC Vision Zero Leadership Team Institute in June 2023, with support from CSCRS and the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

    CSCRS researcher Wes Kumfer and a student at TigerFest

  • HSRC researchers presented an interactive session at the 2023 Chapel Hill High School TigerFest event on May 24. The annual TigerFest is an alternative educational day where students can take classes on subjects that aren’t traditionally offered during the school year, and it provided the HSRC team a great opportunity to discuss road safety scenarios with high school students. 
  • IPRC hosted the May 2023 webinar “Re-framing Automated Speed Enforcement to Overcome Public Opposition” with speakers from Rutgers University. The webinar recording will be posted on IPRC’s YouTube channel.
  • Several HSRC researchers presented during the March 2023 North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Research and Innovation Summit. CSCRS-related presentations included:
    • Advancing a Safe Systems Approach to Assessing the Traffic Impacts of Land Development
    • Systemic Safety Analysis for Vision Zero: Lessons from Montgomery County
  • CSCRS researchers engaged in about 50 activities at the 2023 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in January 2023 including lectern presentations, poster presentations, workshops, and more. In addition, CSCRS held the fourth Safety Sunday @ TRB reception in conjunction with the conference.
  • The Research to Practice Bytes series concluded with the last session on May 31, 2023. The series webpage contains session recordings, slide decks, and other materials related to the program.

Other CSCRS highlights

A quick rundown of additional recent CSCRS activities:

Katie Harmon

Katie Harmon

Collaborator profile: Katie Harmon

CSCRS is very pleased to feature Dr. Katherine (Katie) Harmon in this edition’s collaborator profile. Harmon is a Research Associate at HSRC, specializing in the application of epidemiologic and injury surveillance methods for the purpose of preventing traffic-related injuries. Her work with CSCRS has included spearheading the creation of the website, tracking e-scooter injuries and fatalities, working with partners on developing codes for micromobility-related injuries, and leading the following CSCRS research projects:

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

Harmon: For many years, I’ve been a proponent of the physical and mental benefits of physical activity, such as walking and biking; however, through my own lived experience, I’ve realized that many of us do not have access to safe places to engage in these activities. Therefore, joining the research team at CSCRS fulfilled a personal, as well as a professional objective, of working towards building a healthier, safer, and more equitable transportation system.

Crossroads: Why do you believe it is important to create a new approach to researching road safety?

Harmon: The short answer is that many current U.S. approaches to road safety are not working, and among those that are working, the safety benefits are not distributed equally across all sectors of society, with Black and American Indian/Alaska Native persons, as well as persons with disabilities and/or lower incomes, bearing a disproportionate burden of traffic injuries and fatalities. The uptick in traffic fatalities in recent years is simply the most obvious symptom of a deeper, underlying problem in our transportation system; therefore, more systemic methods are needed if we are going to see a significant improvement in road safety.

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

Harmon: A systemic approach to safety acknowledges that road safety outcomes are the products of multiple components interacting across several organizational levels, from site-specific factors (e.g., roadway design, lighting), to the state/federal regulatory and funding structure, to the sociocultural milieu that promotes certain safety behaviors and discourages others.

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

Harmon: Since my background is in injury epidemiology and prevention, rather than transportation safety, I was unaware of the “5 Es” (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Emergency Response, and Evaluation) until I joined HSRC as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2018. I was rather shocked when I learned about this model because, in my opinion, it is a reductive view of safety, that excludes vast swaths of people with a stake in road safety research and practice, including the public health community, which I belong to. Therefore, I hope the inclusion of people from public health, as well as other nontraditional disciplines, such as medicine, psychology, and environmental sciences, along with advocacy groups and members of the community, will result in a more human-centered approach to road safety.

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

Harmon: Nearly all my work is interdisciplinary! Typically, I am part of a research team with experts from the fields of engineering, planning, statistics, and the behavioral sciences, among other disciplines. Such collaborations are necessary for understanding a system as complex as our U.S. transportation system.

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

Harmon: I would like the field of transportation safety to acknowledge and take action to address the persistent harms of current and past state and federal transportation and housing (e.g., redlining) policies and programs on historically marginalized communities. Such policies facilitated disinvestment over generations, resulting in the creation of unsafe, unwalkable, disconnected neighborhoods with an elevated burden of injury and disease. The good news is that through investing and empowering communities, we can reduce the burden of numerous health conditions, including cardiorespiratory diseases, obesity, substance use/alcohol disorders, violence, and, yes, traffic injuries and fatalities.

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

Harmon: That is not an easy question, because I have been fortunate to have many rewarding experiences, but foremost I enjoy working with students and inspiring them to think a little more critically about our transportation system and their part in making it better for future generations.

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

Harmon: Never stop asking questions. Just because something has been done a certain way for years, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon. Also, don’t be discouraged from pursuing a career in transportation safety research because you don’t think you have the requisite background – I can attest it is a growing field, but it needs more folks with diverse backgrounds and experiences!

CSCRS partner activities and resources

Here is an update on research-to-practice resources and activities from CSCRS partners:

  • The National Cooperative Highway Research Program, in cooperation with HSRC, is inviting transportation, law enforcement, policymaking, and public health professionals to complete this ten-minute survey on applying Safe System practices in the U.S.
  • NCDOT and North Carolina A&T State University are fielding a five-minute survey aiming to gauge public perceptions of railroad environments. The deadline to respond is June 30, 2023.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a new online resource focusing on the role of speed in road safety efforts. 
  • The Vision Zero Network has released tips for communities applying for round two of the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program.

Stay in touch

CSCRS is headquartered at HSRC. To stay up to date on HSRC’s work, including in the area of Safe System research, sign up for updates and announcements on the HSRC home page.


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