Research Partnership Award honors pedestrian safety studies

Members of the RPA team with Robert Johns
Back row, from left: Robert Johns, Ethan Fawley, HunWen Westman, Mike Klobuchar, Jeremy Ellison, Brad Drahos. Front row, from left: Fay Simer, Nichole Morris, Curtis Craig, Melissa Barnes, Amber Dallman.

Pedestrian deaths are at a 30-year high nationally, and serious injuries result in financial losses for a lifetime. The impacts on families are immeasurable.

In two major studies, U of M researchers worked with community, government, and law enforcement partners to explore solutions to stem these losses. Their work was honored with the 2024 CTS Research Partnership Award.

“The findings—based on careful, empirical data—demonstrate to what extent partners can work together to improve driver-pedestrian interactions across a city at multiple types of road locations,” says Nichole Morris, director of the U of M's Human Factors Safety Laboratory (formerly the HumanFIRST Lab). “Our work also shows the limitations and importance of certain intervention components.”

Read a new article on the latest study

Community engagement was integral to the studies; now, the results are being shared broadly.  To date, the two studies have resulted in four journal articles and a conference proceeding paper. Furthermore, the research methods and gained research expertise have been extended to three new studies—including one that is examining how drivers and low-speed automated vehicles interact with one another and in what way those interactions benefit pedestrians or put them at risk.

Also of note, the research was highlighted in the book Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America by author Angie Schmitt. It was featured in a long-read article in The Guardian by local author Tamara Dean, who suffered a near-deadly hit and run while crossing a Minneapolis crosswalk. And the nationally syndicated NPR podcast show 1A featured Dr. Morris and her research to discuss the rise in risky driving since the pandemic and the toll that changes in driving culture and vehicle designs have had on pedestrians.

“These high-profile media conversations, along with numerous others, speak to the immense impact these projects have had in raising awareness of pedestrian safety issues and increasing the visibility of research done at the University of Minnesota,” Morris says.

The Research Partnership Award is named in honor of former CTS director Robert Johns. The award is presented annually to a team of individuals who have collaboratively drawn on their diverse expertise to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

Project team:

  • University of Minnesota: Nichole Morris, Curtis Craig, Brad Drahos
  • Western Michigan University: Ron Van Houten
  • St. Paul Police Department: Kat Brown, Jeremy Ellison
  • St. Paul Public Works: Mike Klobuchar
  • City of Minneapolis: Ethan Fawley
  • MnDOT: Amber Dallman, Melissa Barnes, Fay Simer (formerly of St. Paul Public Works)

—Pam Snopl, CTS senior editor


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