Graduate Student Kayla Fleskes

A project led by David Hurwitz, associate professor of transportation engineering at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering, received an Outreach and Engagement Award for Excellence at the Vice Provost Awards for Excellence Celebration on May 14, 2018.

The annual event showcases 10 exceptional, award-winning outreach and engagement projects. The awards were created in 2007 to encourage and reward efforts to create and nurture healthy communities and economies.

“This prestigious recognition is a testimony to the contributions that our lab, the School of Civil and Construction Engineering, and the Pacific Northwest Transportation Research Consortium (PacTrans) are making to ensure the safety and mobility of the traveling public in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest,” said Hurwitz.

Through “Mitigation of Lane Departure Crashes in the Pacific Northwest through Coordinated Outreach,” Hurwitz and project team members aimed to engage the public about lane departure crashes.

Approximately 17,000 fatalities occur annually in the U.S. because of roadway departure crashes. Through analysis of crash data and interviews with state Departments of Transportation in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, project members confirmed lane departure crashes are overrepresented in the Pacific Northwest.

“This prestigious recognition is a testimony to the contributions that our lab, the School of Civil and Construction Engineering, and the Pacific Northwest Transportation Research Consortium (PacTrans) are making to ensure the safety and mobility of the traveling public in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest."  - David Hurwitz 

The award-winning project had two components: a public service announcement (PSA) competition for high school and college students, and an interactive presentation on transportation safety for elementary and middle school students.

The PSA competition resulted in dozens of submissions from throughout the Pacific Northwest. At the conclusion of the contest, six winners from each participating state received a plaque and monetary award.

The presentations for younger students focused on local transportation safety issues. Presenters, including Oregon State graduate students, used images of nearby locations which students could recognize easily.

“Graduate students such as Kayla Fleskes and Ellie Simpson were highly involved in developing and delivering the presentations,” said Hurwitz. “When adolescent girls see women pursuing graduate degrees in civil engineering, there is a potential to make an enormously positive impact on the next generation.”

Transportation Safety Mosaic Project members gave 18 presentations to 488 students. Following each presentation, organizers asked students how crashes could be prevented. From that prompt, students created 408 drawings, wrote 124 narratives, and participated in four interviews with researchers about their ideas. After the presentations, these items were incorporated into word clouds and mosaics for each state throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“Research shows that these early interventions can have a measureable influence on the risk taking behaviors of young drivers, which is an over-represented population in fatal car crashes,” said Hurwitz.

 Co-Principal Investigators for the project include Linda Boyle, professor and chair, University of Washington, Industrial and Systems Engineering; Leila Hajibabai, assistant professor, Washington State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Ahmed Abdel-Rahim, professor and director of NIATT, University of Idaho, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Nathan Belz, assistant professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Student project members include Kayla Fleskes, graduate research assistant, Oregon State University (OSU), College of Engineering (COE), School of Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE); Zachary Barlow, graduate research assistant, OSU, COE, CCE; Huizhong (Edith) Guo, graduate research assistant, University of Washington, Industrial and Systems Engineering; and Xingwei Wu, graduate research assistant, University of Washington, Industrial and Systems Engineering.

PacTrans – a consortium of transportation professionals and educators from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho – provided funding for the project. PacTrans is the Regional University Transportation Center (UTC) for Federal Region 10. Through the UTC program, the USDOT awards grants to universities across the U.S. to advance state-of-the-art transportation research and develop the next generation of transportation professionals. PacTrans focuses on using technological advances to develop data-driven, sustainable solutions for the diverse transportation needs of the region.

– July 2018