Teaching Drivers to Be Safer and More Eco-Friendly

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

From KIA motors- This system restricts engine and transmission performance in favor of fuel economy

Real-time feedback to drivers can help them improve their fuel efficiency and safety. The results of a recent UMass Amherst field study on the Effectiveness of Eco-Driving: Real-Time Feedback and Classroom Training, were presented at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, by UMass-Amherst graduate student Tao Jiang.

The presentation summarized an UMass-Amherst study undertaken as part of MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, Research Section and funded with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. UMass-Amherst Professors, and UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Dr. Daiheng Ni and Dr. Song Gao, oversaw the study. The goal of the project was “to identify and test techniques for modifying driver behavior to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and improve safety, in furtherance of the mission and goals of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan.”

Motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are responsible for close to half the volatile organic compounds that create smog, more than half the nitrogen oxide emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S.

As discussed in the research report, three major characteristics of driving behaviors to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety are:

  • Driving smoothly without much acceleration, idling, or traveling at very low speeds (such as in congested stop-and-go traffic).
  • Anticipating traffic and being vigilant about other vehicles in traffic with you and other drivers’ behaviors.
  • Following speed limits on highways and adjusting speeds as needed for adverse conditions.

The study was conducted with 133 MassDOT-owned vehicles (heavy vehicles excluded) and the employees who drive them.  The study included two types of interventions to modify driver behaviors. The first was the installation of an in-vehicle device that provided real-time feedback, including weekly emails, on each driver’s performance over a two and a half month period. The second was a 1.5-hour classroom training on eco-driving. There were four participant groups:  one that received both interventions, one that received real-time feedback only, one that had the classroom training only, and one that had no intervention. Participants’ driving behaviors were evaluated before the intervention phase, during the intervention phase, and afterward.

Major conclusions from this research were as follows:

  • Real-time feedback had a significant impact in reducing speeding and aggressive acceleration.
  • Combined effects of real-time feedback and classroom training contributed to a 0.89 mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy.

The study recommended that both real-time feedback and training, as well as periodic follow-up and monitoring, will maximize the effectiveness of such eco-driving interventions.

MassDOT is Well Prepared for Major Storms

by: Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

Boston Common

For the third time this year, major snow, rain, and ice storms are expected to cause significant flooding and complications on Massachusetts’s roadways.

As Massachusetts is expecting another significant storm this week, bringing 6-20 inches of wet snow MassDOT is doing everything it can to prepare citizens and roadways for the impact and aftermath.

MassDOT is able to deploy up to 700 personal to cover over 15,000 lane miles for snow and ice removal throughout the Commonwealth. They are well prepared with approximately 4,200 pieces of snow and ice removal equipment, including 1,300 plow and spreaders, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders. The department has planned out deployment of snow equipment, and roads are being pretreated with brine and Magnesium Chloride to make snow and ice removal easier.

Closing roads and transit systems for extended periods of time this afternoon and evening is a big possibility in preparation for the upcoming storm and MassDOT urges commuters to be prepared.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority expects Wednesday and Thursday’s storm to impact most transportation, including the subway and commuter rails. MBTA crews are re-stocking on fuel, sand/salt mixes, as well as re-inspecting infrastructure like switches, signals and gates, and snow plows.

The agency released a statement saying it was canceling nightly shuttles between North Quincy and Braintree as well as canceling a public meeting in Somerville due to the forecast.

Again, MassDOT personnel and government employees are urging citizens to stay off the road as much as possible, especially on Wednesday night when the storm will be the heaviest. If drivers must go out, MassDOT advises them to lower their speed, allow themselves extra travel time, and “don’t crowd the plow,” an ongoing message for the motorist to stay behind snow removal equipment.

MassDOT advises drivers to always wear seatbelts, minimize distractions and dial 511 before heading out on the roadway to hear real-time traffic conditions.

Mutual Aid During the Winter – Lending a Hand

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator


A blaze recently destroyed the Sandisfield highway garage, leaving the town without access to trucks for snow removal.  Abutting towns and others have stepped in to offer services to assist Sandisfield with their snow removal needs.  Towns like Huntington, Northampton, Leominster, Beckett and others have posted on the One Center Baystate Roads listserve the various services offered for aid (e.g. equipment and staff) to help keep the roads clear and safe.  In Massachusetts, there are two types of Intrastate Mutual Aid Agreements that Towns can participate in: Statewide Mutual Aid Agreement and Public Works Mutual Aid Agreement.  Many Massachusetts towns have signed one of these documents to provide assistance to another town that is in need of equipment, staff, traffic mitigation, due to a natural disaster, fires etc…

MassDOT has also provided aid to Sandisfield.  Speaking with Kathy Stevens, District 1; “ MassDOT has committed two weeks of salt and plowing services to the town.”  This is not unusual for MassDOT to offer these services.  Historically they have offered other services as well, including traffic and safety mitigation.

Mark Your Calendars! The National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) Data Workshop scheduled for August 8-9, 2018

“TRB is sponsoring a National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) Data for Transportation Applications Workshop August 8-9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. The NHTS allows analysis of daily travel by all modes, including characteristics of the persons traveling and their households, their vehicles, and their trips. This workshop, held every 5-6 years, explores how NHTS data has been used to support key transportation policy considerations, such as energy use, congestion, highway finance, safety, and mode share. The 2018 workshop will focus on the methods and techniques for using the survey data and the performance measures to which it can be applied, especially when integrating it with other data sources. For questions, contact Tom Palmerlee at TPalmerlee@nas.edu or visit TRB.org.

Vision Zero Sees a Safer Future

By Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

Vision Zero started in Sweden in 1997, when it was adopted as national policy. Since then, Sweden’s rate of traffic fatalities has decreased by more than half, from seven fatalities per 100,000 people to less than three fatalities per 100,000, despite vehicle usage increasing. Worldwide there are currently 1.3 million deaths annually from road crashes. Road safety is the primary importance of Vision Zero, and transportation objectives such as mobility are addressed based on safety. There are now road safety organizations promoting Vision Zero in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands. A number of cities in these countries and over 25 cities in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston, have implemented Vision Zero policies.

The City of Boston’s Vision Zero website describes the City’s “commitment to focus the city’s resources on proven strategies to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030.”

In Zero work is connected to the City’s Smart Streets goals and using technology to understand traffic patterns and safety issues on Boston roadways. The City of Boston recently partnered with Verizon for an intersection study using Verizon’s smart-street technologies. At MassDOT’s Moving Together Conference, Kim English from Verizon spoke about this initiative. The study was conducted at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street, where one bicyclist was killed and sixteen bicyclists and pedestrians were injured during 2015 to 2016. Verizon installed over 30 wireless traffic sensors and 15 video cameras at the intersection, to collect data on car, truck, bicycle, and pedestrian movements. The gathered data was anonymous, with no personally identifying video or other information included. Verizon then synched this data with bus and traffic signal information from other sources, and analyzed the data using complex algorithms to pinpoint key issues and to help develop recommendations for intersection improvements.

In her talk, Ms. English spoke about reducing left-turn crashes at the intersection.  Early results also showed that cars often failed to yield to pedestrians on the western side of the intersection, as was discussed in a recent MIT Technology Review article on the project. The final recommendations for this intersection and others with safety issues included intersection design changes, better signage, public outreach and education, greater traffic rule enforcement, and/or other interventions.

The initial study with Verizon has now ended, and the City of Boston is looking to extend this high tech data gathering and analysis to other intersections along Massachusetts Avenue, in order to better understand traffic and safety issues along the corridor.

Thermal imaging cameras can be used for vehicle monitoring and counting, even in darkness.  Source: http://www.flir.co.uk

Ms. English indicated that Verizon is now working with the City of San Francisco to study 15 intersections using the same data collection and analysis technologies, and looking at other cities with whom to partner. The MIT Technology Review article mentioned that Verizon is also presently testing other smart-street technologies such as light poles that can broadcast emergency alerts and Wi-Fi connected informational kiosks.

In a 2014 interview, Traffic Safety Strategist Matts-Åke Belin discussed Vision Zero with the Swedish Transport Administration, saying, “If we can create a system where people are safe, why shouldn’t we? Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they….will do lots of things that we might not be happy about? So let’s try to build a more human-friendly system instead. And we have the knowledge to do that.”i

Where Progress Happens! A Research Implementation Exchange

roadwithmoleculesMassDOT has been leading the charge with innovative infrastructure improvements for many years; focusing on preservation, safety, the environment and efficiency. We reached out to our One Center Research Affiliate, Dr. Walaa Mogawer, a Professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Director of the Highway Sustainability Research Center to discuss the current research in Massachusetts. Dr. Mogawer has collaborated directly with MassDOT’s pavement management section, on developing asphalt mixtures that could extend the service life of pavements and reduce costs.  We spoke with Dr. Mogawer and the Pavement Management Engineer for the Highway Division, and MassDOT Project Champion Ed Naras to discuss how this research is being implemented.  Here are some questions that were asked:

How are the results of your recent MassDOT research project being implemented in Massachusetts?

Dr. Mogawer’s most recent research entitled Field Monitoring of Experimental Hot Mix Asphalt Projects Placed in Massachusetts involved evaluating numerous field trials of experimental mixtures placed by MassDOT since 2000. Dr. Mogawer stated that, “the results of this study are a good first step in evaluating these experimental mixtures.  With this data, MassDOT can refine specifications and implement the mixtures on a broader scale.  Utilizing these mixtures will help improve the infrastructure health in Massachusetts.”

These experimental mixtures included several pilot projects using the superpave mixture design methodology, utilization of warm mix asphalt technologies, asphalt rubber mixtures, latex or polymer modified asphalt mixtures, and reflective crack relief layer mixtures. All these types of mixtures were placed to achieve a longer service life and specific outcomes in terms of performance of the pavement. A total of 12 field projects were identified for inclusion in the study. For each project, a plan was developed to monitor the experimental mixture performance using condition data (distresses, rutting, cracking, roughness, etc.) that would be measured periodically over the duration of this project.  The rehabilitation process of Massachusetts aging bridge infrastructure has been complimented by this research.

Generally, based on the monitoring plan and associated thresholds for condition indices, the experimental mixtures placed at the selected projects have provided acceptable performance in terms of cracking, rutting, and ride quality. Furthermore, the results suggest that the experimental mixtures are ready for further implementation by MassDOT.

Has this new method, practice, policy or material reduced the cost or improved safety or efficiency at MassDOT?

Speaking with Ed Naras, he indicated that the collaboration on pavement management between MassDOT and UMass Dartmouth Highway Sustainability Research Center, has been successful over the years.  Ed Naras, who works directly with Dr. Mogawer, indicated that the focus of each project is to improve the functional and structural capabilities of the roadways and bridge decks with consideration to make them more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

What are Massachusetts future priorities for implementing this research?

MassDOT will focus future research efforts on building on this work, improving paved roadway sustainability through increased recycling use, using environmentally friendly technologies, increasing pavement preservation activities, designing resilient roads that can withstand the effect of climate change, and designing asphalt mixtures that have balanced performance.


Interview conducted by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator with Dr. Walaa Mogawer and Ed Naras.


Keeping Cyclists Safe! UMTC Research Spotlight on YouTube


Want to learn more about bicycle safety? PhD student Nicholas Fournier of UMass Amherst talks about his two research studies currently being conducted at UMass. Mr. Fournier is studying for a PhD in transportation engineering and an MS in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. View Mr. Fournier discussing his research at this link. One of the highlighted studies used the UMass advanced driving simulator to test how well drivers approaching intersections understand different on-road bicycle infrastructure, such as bike boxes and merged bike lanes, which are designed to reduce left-hook bicyclist-motor vehicle crashes and promote bicyclist safety. In the second study, Mr. Fournier developed a sine-wave model for estimating annual on-road bicycle travel demand in cities where bicycle demand can fluctuate considerably across seasons. The model reduces the number of sample counts needed to develop an estimate for bicycle demand, making it easier for researchers and practitioners in a city to measure bicycle ridership and the overall safety of their road infrastructure for bicyclists.



UMass Safe Safety Belt Study In the News!

A recent research report that was released by UMass Safe at the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicates that Massachusetts seat belt use is rising and is actually at an all time high at 78.2%, but there is still work to do because we are still lagging behind other states. In 2015 Massachusetts ranked 48th in the Country. The US average is 88.5%

You can catch our Deputy Director of UMass Safer, Robin Reissman on Channel 22WWLP tonight, October 11, 2016 at 5pm. http://wwlp.com/


By: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research and Development