For 30 years, I have been involved with traffic-safety research.  Early work as an undergraduate, through to the funded work I complete now, focuses on the public health implications of risky behaviors and interventions to alter those risks (for drivers and pedestrians).  This page provides and overview of my research program in this area, listed in rough order of time on topic.

Students are an important part of my research program.  I encourage them to get involved with me as we address one of the environments that leads to a top 10 cause of death and injury for nearly every age group in the U.S. — and beyond.


The majority of my work currently targets seat-belt use in front-seat occupants.  We are funded by the US Department of Transportation / Virginia Highway Safety Office to be the Commonwealth of Virginia’s occupant protection evaluator. My team is responsible conducting field work to obtain Virginia’s official seat-belt use rate each year.  This yearly effort follows the Commonwealth’s activities in support of the Click It or Ticket program coordinated nationwide.  Each state and territory is required to report this rate to the US government.  We also assist the Virginia Highway Safety office in year-round field work to monitor changes in seat-belt use rates across the Commonwealth. These data are used to build programs, evaluate enforcement and media impacts, and to anticipate what the sate rate may be when the annual, required survey is conducted each June.  Through this work, we also investigate possible correlates of use, including urban/rural areas, types of vehicles, driver and passenger characteristics, and distracted driving.


Perhaps the work we are most known for involves red-light running.  From 1997 – 1999 and then again from 2004 – 2006, my team was extremely active investigating red-light running prevalence and predictors in the Hampton Roads area (the area of Virginia in which Old Dominion University resides among Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News, York County, among a few other jurisdictions).  In the early years we conducted work as part of the Intersection Connection program that relied upon media, engineering, and enforcement efforts to reduce red light running.  Our evaluation involved field work at intersections around the area.


In 1999, we conducted a nationwide telephone survey of red-light running behaviors and attitudes. This survey, funded by Daimler-Chrysler, received significant media and public attention after it was reported on the the Associated Press.  Numerous papers and radio stations reported on the work and interviewed us. We had a segment on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw as well.  To this day, we still receive interview requests and queries resulting from this one research piece conducted almost 20 years ago.


Finally, we have contributed to research documenting the effectiveness of photo enforcement on reducing red-light running.  Cameras for enforcement have been controversial in many areas of the United States, but when used properly in locations vetted in such a way that camera technology is the best tool for a community to use, then such enforcement has pubic safety benefits.  We documented the program’s impact on behavior in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We also were the first known int he world to produce a peer-reviewed paper documenting what happens when cameras “go dark” due to law expiration.  This occurred in Virginia Beach, and our data among the data from others were used re-institute the program.



I have been involved in various pedestrian safety and/or driver yielding project since arriving at Old Dominion University.  For example, I worked with a colleague at George Mason University on a project to document unsafe crossing in Arlington, Virginia that also includes tests of police giving warnings for jay-walking.  The project was called Walk This Way.  At Old Dominion University, my team investigated the impact of Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons on pedestrian behavior and driver yielding at non-traffic-controlled crosswalks.  And, my team here assisted a lead team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on a project to document and change distracted pedestrian behaviors.



One topic my team and I investigated only briefly (in the early 2000s) without ever returning to it was tailgating, or close following.  At that time, Hampton Roads was used to test the prevalence of following too close behaviors (< 2 seconds, < 1 second) and how and if a media, engineering, and enforcement program could increase following distances.  The intervention was not very effective, but the prevalence data certainly were shocking, finding high rates of unsafe following behaviors that render the likelihood of being unable to stop in an emergency higher than comfortable.  Tailgating in the area, as we operationalized it be < 2 seconds of interval, was the norm — not, like red light running, an exception to majority action.