December 09, 2016
The University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Kansas are partners in a seven-school consortium that will receive roughly $13.75 million in grant money during the next five years from the United States Department of Transportation to research ways to make the country's roadways safer.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the lead school for the Mid-America Transportation Center consortium, which also includes: Lincoln University; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Nebraska Indian Community College; the University of Iowa; the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Mid-America Transportation Center, which is headquartered at the University of Nebraska, is one of seven regional sites to receive the University Transportation Center designation.
Abiodun Akinwuntan, Ph.D., MPH, MBA, professor and dean of the School of Health Professions, and Shelley Bhattacharya, DO, MPH, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, are the co-investigators for the award at KU Medical Center. Steven Schrock, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Engineering, is the main investigator at KU.
"KU and KU Medical Center are proud to be collaborators on this major grant that will improve safety on our public roads," Akinwuntan said. "It also shows the great potential we have for future collaborations with other universities in the Midwest."
One of the main goals of the grant at KU Medical Center is the development of the Drivers' Safety Institute, a community resource to improve the fitness of all drivers, including drivers hauling hazardous materials. In the first year of the grant KU Medical Center will receive a portion of $2,570,600 that will be distributed among the seven consortium institutions.
In the first year of the grant, KU Medical Center researchers will focus on developing a prototype driving fitness assessment battery to provide reliable and valid measures of driving-related visual and cognitive skills of participants. Testing will be done on transportation workers involved in moving hazardous materials, especially older workers or those with specific health issues.
In subsequent years, researchers hope to develop an emergency alert system that would help mitigate the effects of accidents involving trucks hauling hazardous materials. Although accidents can never be completely eliminated, researchers hope that by studying at-risk drivers, they can identify factors that affect poor driving decisions, accidents caused by human error or inattentive driving. They plan to identify cost-effective measures, such as driver training and monitoring of drivers, to help reduce the number of hazardous spills on the nation's highways.