VTTI employs new safety research methods in its 100-Car Study

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) are focused on helping keep you and your family safe on the road.

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States for people between the ages of 1 and 65. The high-quality transportation research conducted at VTTI could help curtail the more than 40,000 deaths, 2 million injuries, and $150 billion in losses attributed to crashes each year.

    Fleet vehicles on the Smart Road bridge

One of VTTI's research projects, the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, equipped 100 private vehicles in the Northern Virginia / Washington D.C. area with sophisticated monitoring equipment to record the actions of drivers over a period of about one year. They observed the daily driving habits of the total of 241 volunteer drivers (primary and secondary drivers), who logged some 2 million miles in 42,000 hours of driving.

Overall, the study — sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Virginia Tech, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) — found that distractions and inattentiveness contributed to the following:

  • 15 police-reported and 67 non-police reported crashes (Crashes were defined as any physical contact between the subject vehicle and another vehicle, pedestrian, or object, including low impact events, such as striking curbs and parking blocks);
  • 761 near-crashes (situations requiring a rapid, severe evasive maneuver to avoid a crash); and
  • 8,295 incidents (situations requiring an evasive maneuver occurring at less magnitude than a near-crash).

This particular study marks the first time that detailed information on a large number of crash and near-crash events has been collected and it fills a void in existing driving safety research methods. The results are important because near-crashes occur 15 times more often than crashes and every near-crash event demonstrates a driver successfully performing an evasive maneuver.

The 100-Car Study also produced more than six terabytes of data that can be use for a wide range of additional studies, such as the analysis of collision avoidance algorithms and a more in-depth examination of driver behaviors, according to VTTI Director Tom Dingus.

The institute conducts transportation safety research and works to improve safety conditions from their 22,000 square-foot building in Blacksburg.

This center — the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (STSCE) — focuses driver performance, pavement delineation and lighting, older and younger drivers, and fatigued drivers.

    Smart Road control room

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., was instrumental in designating VTTI as a "Center for Excellence" in Section 5309 of the August 2005 federal transportation bill titled Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). According to the legislation, the center's goal is to develop and disseminate advanced transportation safety innovations to rural and urban communities.

Over the years, VTTI has demonstrated successes in exploring crash causation and identifying and developing crash countermeasures in these focus areas. Specifically, the funding provided by STSCE and VTTI's partners will enable the institute to further analyze these safety issues and to continue developing and proving safety countermeasures.


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