Research Excellence Program 2016

The ATLAS Center partners embrace the power of competition to produce the highest quality research results. Each institution uses a competitive selection process. Experience has shown that Principal Investigators (PIs) who participate in and are selected from a competitive process are best equipped to produce high-level, peer-reviewed research that is well-organized, productive, and timely. Each partner conducts a competition for research funds using a selection process that follows a peer review process.


7/8/05 Dan Keating, Director of the Center for Human Growth and Development.

Daniel Keating, M.D.
Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics;
Research Professor, Institute of Social Research (ISR)

Co-Investigators: Todd Arendt (U-M Medical School), Edward Huntley (U-M ISR), and Bruce Simons-Morton (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Project Title: Circadian Timing, Drowsy Driving, and Health Risk Behavior in Novice Adolescent Drivers

Abstract: Both worldwide and in the U.S., major contributors to adolescent and early adult mortality and morbidity arise from health risks characterized as behavioral misadventure. The large majority of deaths among 10-to 24-year-olds are due to risk-related events and morbidity statistics for non- fatal events show a similar pattern. Motor vehicle crashes account for over one-third of adolescent deaths. The reason for this elevated risk is likely multifactorial, implicating developmental, environmental and biological mechanisms. One leading theory suggests a developmental maturity mismatch (DMM) between an earlier and faster-developing limbic- based “bottom-up” neural system characterized by heightened reactivity to motivational stimuli and rewards, while the prefrontally-organized “top-down” system that enables more effective cognitive control and judgment matures more slowly. This DMM is hypothesized to contribute to elevated risk. Circadian timing may independently contribute to and interact with this DMM, increased risk for behavioral misadventure and driver error. Both an evening chronotype and circadian misalignment are associated with decrements in sleep duration and sleep continuity, along with increased risk-taking and cognitive impairment. Thus, circadian mechanisms may affect neurocognitive pathways regulating reward-related behavior and decision making. Drowsy driving is common in adolescents and is a health risk behavior that lends itself to exploring how the interaction of DMM and the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle may predispose novice, adolescent drivers to a set of developmentally unique vulnerabilities. There is thus a critical need to understand the mechanisms contributing to drowsy driving among novice adolescent drivers, in order to improve preventive interventions, and develop novel ones, and to address potential changes in social and educational policies that can mitigate this major population health burden. The proposed research aims to characterize the role of chronotype and circadian misalignment in drowsy driving and risky driving behaviors, and the potentially mediating neurocognitive factors of impaired executive function and risk-reward processing.

Monica Jones

Monica L.H. Jones, PhD
Assistant Research Scientist, UMTRI Biosciences Group

Co-Investigators: K. Han Kim (UMTRI), Matthew P. Reed (UMTRI), Oliver A. Varban (U-M Health System), and Bruce Bradtmiller (Anthrotech)

Project Title: Effects of Clinical Obesity on Seat Belt Fit

Abstract:Obesity has been shown to increase the risks of some types of injury in crashes. The effects of obesity on motor vehicle crash (MVC) injuries are not well understood and current prevention efforts do not effectively address the vulnerability associated with the high body mass index (BMI) cohort. Previous studies that investigated the effects of obesity on belt fit and found that obesity effectively introduces slack in the seat belt restraint system by routing the belt further away from the underlying skeletal structures (Reed et al., 2012; Reed et al., 2013). The subject population in these studies have typically evaluated obese occupants (BMI > 30) and excluded individuals with a BMI ≥ 40 kg/ m2. As clinically severe obesity rates increase, the protection of obese occupants will become increasingly important in vehicle and restraint design. The proposed study will extend the previous research on the relationships between body habitus and belt fit to BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2. This proposal presents a work plan to build upon previous data sets to quantify the effects of obesity, for individuals classified as moderate to extremely obese, on seat belt fit, occupant posture, and body shape.

Lisa Molnar

Lisa J. Molnar, PhD
Associate Research Scientist, UMTRI Behavioral Sciences Group

Co-Investigators: David W. Eby (UMTRI), Daniel Blower (UMTRI), Sharon Newnam (Monash University, Australia), and Sjaan Koppel (Monash University, Australia)

Project TitleImproving the Safety of Older Heavy-Vehicle Drivers: Developing a Framework for Moving Forward

Abstract: Road freight transportation represents a long-standing transport safety and public health problem in the United States. One group of heavy-vehicle drivers (HVDs) found to be over-represented in crash statistics is those age 60 and older. The overarching goal of this project is to reduce crashes among older HVDs. This project represents the starting point for developing a program that can be used by HVDs and trucking company management to keep HVDs on the road for as long as they can safely drive. Specific aim of this project are to: 1) conduct an analysis of HV crash data to identify risk factors that contribute to crashes among older HVDs; 2) conduct a synthesis of the literature to identify existing preventive strategies in the road freight transport industry; 3) conduct a series of group and individual structured interviews with HVDs and trucking company management; and 4) develop the conceptual framework for a needs assessment tool designed to improve the safety management of older drivers in the road freight transport industry. Knowledge dissemination and translation represents a key component of the proposed project. Dissemination of findings to the scientific, government, industry and broader community will be undertaken through a variety of forms including publications in high impact journals and presentations at national and international conferences. The research team is well qualified to carry out the research. The team has extensive experience and expertise in the area of HVDs and truck safety. The research team represents a “quad team” made up of investigators from two groups within the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, as well as researchers from another academic institution, Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia. Also included on the team are a student and a representative from the trucking industry; the latter’s practical experience will add significantly to the project.

The ATLAS Center is a collaboration between the University of Michigan (U-M) Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Texas A&M Transportation Institute