January 2024: Pat Waller Scholarship Award

I’m delighted that my student research assistant, Brennen McManus, was selected as the latest recipient of the Patt Waller Scholarship. He has been a great asset to our team, and his scholarship project to survey wheelchair users about their travel challenges and knowledge of WC19 wheelchairs will support future research in this area.


November 2023: Walking the streets of Ann Arbor

On January 1, 2021, I started a quest to walk all of the streets of Ann Arbor. I finished October 8, 2023. I used Strava to record my walks and CityStrides to track completion. I had fun talking to the University Record about my project.

November 2023: ME 450 Design Team Project “Automated Seatbelt Adjustor”

This semester, Daniel Park and I advised an ME 450 senior design team on their project to design an automated seatbelt adjustor. While this type of adjustor would be most beneficial for future integrated wheelchair seating stations, having a greater range of D-ring adjustability that automatically shifts for different sizes of occupants could improve crash protection for everyone. We were happy to stop by the Design Expo to test their product. Many thanks to Brian Eby for his help with the project, and congratulations to team members Edward Pomianek, Austin Chou, David Kim, and Andrew Sheffield on their successful project!

November 2023: Seated Posture of Occupants in Wheelchairs Presented at Stapp Conference

We were excited to hear that this year’s Stapp Conference location was in our backyard at the University of Michigan Union. This gave one of our student researchers, Brennen McManus, and opportunity to present our short communication, “Seated Posture of Occupants in Wheelchairs”, in between classes. Coauthors Matt Reed, Nichole Orton, Miranda St. Amour, Tyler Vallier and Jingwen Hu were also able to attend. We also hosted a fun reception on Halloween at UMTRI.

October 2023: Mobility Summit

I was one of the speakers at the October 12 Mobility Summit hosted by Mcity. You can catch my presentation here at the 3:21 minute mark. I highlighted ingress/egress topics that are covered in our Design Guidelines for Accessible Automated Vehicles: Mobility Focus.

October 2023: Optimizing Frontal Occupant Protection Systems for Occupants Seated in Wheelchairs presented at AAAM Conference

Excited to share our work on Optimizing Frontal Occupant Protection Systems for Occupants Seated in Wheelchairs at the AAAM Conference in Indianapolis this year. Two other colleagues also presented. Kyle Boyle shared Child occupant safety in unconventional seating for vehicles with automated driving systems, while Jingwen Hu presented Understanding the new trends in pedestrian injury distribution and mechanism through data linkage and modeling. In addition to learning about all the interesting research going on, I was happy to be there to cheer on Kristy Arbogast as she received the Award of Merit award and Jason Hallman who won the 2023 Elaine Wodzin Award.

July 2023: RESNA Conference in New Orleans

Two firsts with this trip: my first visit to New Orleans and my first in-person RESNA conference. Miriam Manary and I were able to share some of our work to make AVs accessible to wheelchairs with our papers Volunteer Evaluation of Prototype Integrated Wheelchair Seating Stations with UDIG-Compatible Docking Systems and Automatic Belt Donning and  Dynamic Performance of Add-On UDIG Attachments for Four Commercial Wheelchairs. As a Tulane alum, Miriam was an excellent traveling partner with many great recommendations for dining.

July 2023: Toyota Accessiblity Events

Toyota was kind enough to invite me to share some of our work at two events they hosted in July. The first was a Toyotability R&D Presents: Disability Pride Month Lunch & Learn, where I provided an overview of wheelchair transportation safety. The other speaker was Alex Gossage from Disability Network: Washtenaw, Livingston, Monroe who spoke about transportation challenges from the perspective of a wheelchair user. The second was the Mobility Ideation Event – ToyotAbility & Parents of Toyota where we brought our wheelchair-accessible van to demonstrate how a prototype UDIG vehicle anchor might allow people to dock indepedently in automated vehicles. I met several people in real life for the first time, including Colleen Casey from Toyota and Mike Pugh from Braunability.

October 2022: AAAM Conference in Portland

I was delighted to make my first visit to Portland for the 2022 AAAM Conference, where I was able to share our work “Improving protection systems for wheelchair-seated occupants in vehicle side impacts.” Other highlights were seeing many colleagues and friends for the first time since the pandemic, including Jonathan Rupp who was named the 2022 AAAM Fellow. The conference hotel was conveniently located a few blocks from Powell’s, which is a glorious bookstore.

March 2022: Lifesavers in Chicago

As if it wasn’t exciting enough to be at my first post-pandemic conference, 2022 Lifesavers was in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s day and I could see the green river from my hotel window! I presented at two sessions. The first was Child Restraints and AVs: What Should We be Worrying About? The second was Building a Better Booster: New Volunteer Evaluations and Dynamic Metrics. At that session, I experienced a career highlight: someone asked to take a selfie with me because they knew about my research!

January 2022: New Publication-Literature Review on Wheelchair Transportation Safety

Happy to announce that our new open access journal article Literature Review on Wheelchair Transportation Safety is now available. Given the renewed interest in providing independent transportation solutions for wheelchair users in future automated vehicles, we thought it would be useful to compile previous research where it would be available to everyone.

January 2022: SAE Government/Industry Meeting

We were able to present the Part II of our work to Develop an Automated Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System at this year’s SAE Government/Industry Meeting. Disappointed that I couldn’t attend in person, but was happy to have the opportunity to chat with fellow TRC alums David Zuby and Aloke Prasad before our session.

January 2022: Inclusive Design Challenge Virtual Workshop

We were able to present progress on our Inclusive Design Challenge project with our partners from May Mobility on January 24. You can view see our presentation on Independent Safety for Wheelchair Users in AVs, as well as the other nine participants. We are excited to be starting evaluations with volunteers over the next few months.

August 2021: Wheelchair Transportation Safety Open House

We were excited to share our latest research on wheelchair transportation safety at our Virtual Wheelchair Transportation Safety Open House. That link will let you download a pdf of our presentation, as well as a copy of the final report once it is approved for release.

October 2021: US Occupancy Trends

At this years virtual AAAM conference, we were able to share our study U.S. Vehicle Occupancy Trends Relevant to Future Automated Vehicles and Mobility Services. The work was also published in Traffic Injury Prevention.

March 2021: US Access Board Public Dialogue on Accessible AVs

My colleague, Miriam Manary, and I were honored to be panelists at one of four workshops hosted by the US Access Board to foster public dialogue about accessible autonomous vehicles. We were able to share our initial progress on our work funded by NHTSA to develop automated wheelchair tiedowns and occupant restraint systems. You can view a a recording of the workship that includes our presentation titled Development of an Automated Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System: Initial Progress.

February 2021: SAE Government/Industry Meeting

It wasn’t the same as heading to DC, but we were happy to present initial progress on our NHTSA project to develop an automated wheelchair tiedown and restraint system at SAE’s government/industry meeting. You can see our virtual presentation Development of an Automated Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System: Initial Progress.

September 2020: CPS Conferences

Child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) need to earn continuing education units to stay certified, so many states organize CPS conferences each year. I was able to speak at two conferences remotely this month. For Georgia, I shared “Effects of Child Restraint Misuse and Factors Affecting Child Injury Risk”, while for Ohio, I presented “Building a Better Booster: New Volunteer Evaluations and Dynamic Metrics”. Thanks for the invitiations-hope to meet you in person at a future conference!

June 2020: National Safety Council Webinar

We appreciate the effort made by different organizations to continue to share our research while we stay at home. I was able to share results of our National Safety Council project “Socioeconomic Status Factors in Motor Vehicle Fatality Mitigation Efforts” at a webinar on June 30. While we miss presenting at their annual meeting, it was a great opportunity to expand our audience. The webinar is archived at nsc.org if you join (for free!)

April 2020: NHTSA Shares UMTRI Research Reports

We were happy to learn that NHTSA released several of our reports relating to dynamic testing and performance of child restraint systems:

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March 2020: New Mexico Child Passenger Safety Conference

I was happy to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico to present at the New Mexico Child Passenger Safety Conference. The organizers were impressive and the venue was lovely. I was able to share a presentation titled “Misuse and Best Practice: What does the Latest Research Show?”, highlighting our dynamic study to evaluate the effects of misuse, and the analysis of NASS-GES data to identify factors related to pediatric injury in crashes.

January 2020: New Paper on Child Volunteers in Boosters Published

We have published results of our latest study with child volunteers in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Child Posture and Belt Fit in a Range of Booster Configurations.”

The objective of this research was to quantify differences in posture and belt fit across a range of booster designs that provide different levels of boosting. Posture and belt fit were measured in 25 child volunteers aged four to 12. Children were measured in three laboratory seating conditions selected to provide a range of cushion lengths and belt geometries. Six different boosters, as well as a no-booster condition, were evaluated. The low height boosters produced postures that were more slouched, with the hips further forward than in other more typical boosters. Lap belt fit in the low height boosters was not meaningfully different from the other boosters. Shoulder belt fit produced by the lowest height booster was similar to the no-booster condition. Belt positioning boosters that boost the child less than 70 mm produced postures similar to the no-booster condition. While lap belt guides on these products can produce a similar static lap belt fit, they may not provide adequate dynamic performance and do not achieve the other benefits that come with raising the child to a more advantageous location relative to interior components and belts.

Novermber 2019: Pediatric Motor-Vehicle Injury Risk Paper Presented at Stapp Conference

Over the past few years, Dr. Carol Flannagan and I have been honored to mentor Dr. Marco Benedetti, a recent graduate from the UM Biostatistics department. This November, he was able to present our work to examine the factors associated with pediatric injury in motor-vehicle crashes at the Stapp Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Here’s the abstract:

Current recommendations for restraining child occupants are based on biomechanical testing and data from national and international field studies primarily conducted prior to 2011. We hypothesized that analysis to identify factors associated with pediatric injury in motor-vehicle crashes using a national database of more recent police-reported crashes in the United States involving children under age 13 where type of child restraint system (CRS) is recorded would support previous recommendations. Weighted data were extracted from the National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS-GES) for crash years 2010 to 2015. Injury outcomes were grouped as CO (possible and no injury) or KAB (killed, incapacitating injury, nonincapacitating injury). Restraint was characterized as optimal, suboptimal, or unrestrained based on current best practice recommendations. Analysis used survey methods to identify factors associated with injury. Factors with significant effect on pediatric injury risk include restraint type, child age, driver injury, driver alcohol use, seating position, and crash direction. Compared to children using optimal restraint, unrestrained children have 4.9 (13-year-old) to 5.6 (< 1-year-old) times higher odds of injury, while suboptimally restrained children have 1.1 (13-year-old) to 1.9 (< 1-year-old) times higher odds of injury. As indicated by the differences in odds ratios, effects of restraint type attenuate with age. Results support current best practice recommendations to use each stage of child restraint (rear-facing CRS, forward-facing harnessed CRS, belt-positioning booster seat, lap and shoulder belt) as long as possible before switching to the next step.

October 2019: Child Restraint Misuse Paper Published

Our paper describing research to evaluate “Effects of child restraint misuse on dynamic performance” has been published in Traffic Injury Prevention. Here’s the abstract:

Estimates of child restraint misuse rates in the United States range from 49% to 95%, but not all misuse modes have similar consequences in terms of restraint effectiveness. A series of laboratory sled tests was conducted to determine the effects of common misuses and combinations of misuses, including loose harness, loose installation, incorrect installation angle, incorrect belt path, loose/no tether, and incorrect harness clip usage. Three commercial convertible child restraint models were loaded with the Hybrid III 3-year-old anthropomorphic test device (ATD) and secured by either LATCH or seat belt on a modified FMVSS No. 213 bench. Tests were conducted in forward-facing (FF) and rear-facing (RF) modes. The response variables included ATD accelerations, excursions, and restraint kinematics. Belt/LATCH loads, tether loads, ATD kinematics, and restraint structural response data were also documented. A fractional factorial test design on 8 factors was used to define an initial series of 32 tests. The first series also included 4 tests of correct CRS, 2 forward facing and 2 rearward facing. The analysis of those data determined the selection of conditions for the remaining 20 tests to focus on factors and interactions of high interest and significance. In the RF condition, misrouting the LATCH belt or seat belt through the incorrect belt path was the only misuse that significantly affected outcomes of interest and was associated with high levels of undesirable CRS rotation. In FF tests, loose installation and tether misuse had large adverse effects on 3 of 4 key response variables. The study provides strong evidence for prioritizing tight restraint installation and proper tether use for FF restraints. In particular, use of the tether helped offset the adverse effects of loose installation or loose harness. Because the results show that performance of a RF child restraint system (CRS) installation is less affected by user error, they also provide support for extended RF restraint use. In addition, packaging convertible child restraints with the LATCH belt routed through the RF belt path could help prevent the most consequential RF CRS misuse.

April 2019: Seatbelt Entanglement at SAE Congress

I was able to share work at this year’s SAE congress regarding our project to assess devices to prevent seatbelt entanglement. I was joined by co-authors Bill Lipetlo and Jason Sidman from tool, inc. Since 2000, over 200 rear seat occupants have become entangled in the seatbelt when they inadvertently switched it from emergency locking mode (ELR) to automatic locking mode (ALR). Since a method is needed to lock the seatbelt when installing child restraint systems (CRS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) commissioned tool, inc. to develop prototype devices that could reduce the risk of seatbelt entanglement resulting from the lockability requirement. A field analysis of entanglement incidents was first conducted to inform countermeasure design. Prototype devices were developed and evaluated through testing with volunteer subjects in comparison to standard seatbelt systems by assessing how different designs would be used to install CRS, the quality of the resulting installations, how users would disentangle a trapped child surrogate, as well as to identify volunteer experience when using the belts themselves. Four prototype devices were evaluated in two phases of testing conducted at the UMTRI. All four prototype devices had shorter disentanglement times than trials with the standard seatbelt, but there was not a statistically significant difference between the devices. There were no substantial differences in the quality of child restraint installation among the devices and the standard seatbelt.

Here’s a link to our presentation.

April 2019: New Articles on CPS Resources Available

Two papers on assessing child passenger safety resources are now available. Thanks to our co-author, Michelle Macy, for shepherding these through the publication process.

An assessment of child passenger safety levels of service in Michigan.

Characterizing the child passenger safety workforce in Michigan: A statewide survey in 2015.

February 2019: New Paper on Child Models

Our paper describing development of three-dimensional child models that can be used for child restraint design is now available.

September 2018: NHTSA Releases UMTRI CPS Reports

We have learned that NHTSA has released several past reports describing UMTRI work related to child passenger safety. Here are links:

June 2018: Road to Zero Presentation

I was pleased to join the speakers at the June 28, 2018 Road to Zero Coalition meeting in Washington, DC. We had received funding from the National Safety Council to upgrade our UTMOST tool to allow visualization of fatalities and how different technologies could help address the problem. A link to my presentation can be found here.

April 2018: MEDC Intern Poster Reception

UMTRI hosted a poster reception on April 18, 2018 to highlight the work performed by its inaugural class of Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) transportation interns; I am serving as coordinator of the program. The MEDC provided funding for ten interns in Winter 2018 and another 19 for the Spring/Summer term. The goal of the internships is to provide junior and senior students with skills and knowledge relevant to emerging careers in transportation. Research topics addressed included automated vehicles, human modeling, and mapping tools for connected vehicles.

February 2018: New Paper Comparing Crash Risk in EU and US

Our paper on “Comparing motor-vehicle crash risk of EU and US vehicles” was published in Accident Analysis and Prevention this month. This project was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other safety researchers in Europe.

January 2018: SAE Government/ Industry

This month I was able to attend the SAE Government/Industry meeting held January 24-26. Everyone was relieved that the shutdown was resolved in time for the government employees to attend so it wasn’t just a /Industry meeting. I presented a project we did for NHTSA to “Develop a Surrogate Seatbelt Retractor for Use in Child Restraint Testing”. We received permission to share the report on the project; you can download from here.

My colleague Daniel Park also attended and presented “Toward Integrated Safety: Occupant Dynamics in Crash Avoidance Maneuvers.”

December 2017: New MEDC Intern Program

We’re excited to announce a new opportunity for undergraduate students to have a practical research experience in the field of transportation. The UMTRI/MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation) Internships were launched this month, and I am serving as the faculty coordinator. We will have 12 interns in the Winter 2018 term and 19 for the Spring/Summer. We have modeled the application process after the UM UROP program, where UMTRI researchers post projects, and students apply to those of interest. You can find out more information about the program here on the UMTRI website.

November 2017: Stapp Conference

This month I attended the 61st Stapp Car Crash Conference in Charleston, SC. A highlight was seeing my colleague Jingwen Hu present “Optimizing Seat Belt and Airbag Designs for Rear Seat Occupant Protection in Frontal Crashes”. This NHTSA-funded study is the most comprehensive study in the literature for rear-seat restraint designs in frontal crashes. It highlights the potential benefit of using advanced seatbelt (e.g. pre-tensioner and load limiter) and airbag systems for rear-seat occupants.

October 2017: Tether Use in Pickups

Our study for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on tether use and usability in pickup trucks is now available at Traffic Injury Prevention. Our goal was to Investigate vehicle factors associated with child restraint tether use and misuse in pickup trucks and evaluate four labeling interventions designed to educate consumers on proper tether use. We performed volunteer testing with 24 subjects and four different pickup trucks. Each subject performed eight child restraint installations among the four pickups using two forward-facing restraints. We chose vehicles to represent four different implementations of tether anchors among pickups. Interventions included a diagram label, QR Code linked to video instruction, coordinating text label, and contrasting text tag.

Subjects used the child restraint tether in 93 percent of trials. However, tether use was completely correct in only 9 percent of trials. An installation was considered functional if the subject attached the tether to a tether anchor and had a tight installation (ignoring routing and head restraint position); 28 percent of subjects achieved a functional installation. The most common installation error was attaching the tether hook to the anchor/router directly behind the child restraint (near the top of the seatback) rather than placing the tether through the router and attaching it to the anchor in the adjacent seating position. The Nissan Frontier, with the anchor located on the back wall of the cab, had the highest rate of correct installations but also had the highest rate of attaching the tether to components other than the tether anchor (seat adjustor, child restraint storage hook, around head restraint). None of the labeling interventions had a significant effect on correct installation; not a single subject scanned the QR Code to access the video instruction.

February 2017:UTMOST Upgrades

We are pleased to announce an upgrade to the UTMOST tool. The UTMOST (Unified Theory for Mapping Opportunities for Safety Technology) tool is designed to allow visualization of the benefits of multiple safety countermeasures and to understand how combinations of those countermeasures might influence the crash population. With funding from the Toyota Class Action Settlement Safety Research and Education Program, this major upgrade of the UTMOST model included several new modules to estimate the safety benefits of several crash avoidance features, as well as effects of state laws on child restraint systems and teen graduated licensing.