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ASPPH NHTSA Fellows Investigate Traffic Safety in Pacific Northwest

In a recent visit to Region 10, three NHTSA Public Health Fellows spent time in the field learning about how state, federal, and local partners coordinate to improve traffic safety.

[Photo: (left to right) Ms. Monika Ramnarayan, Ms. Noelle Ortiz, Ms. Nicole Booker, with Mr. Max Sevareid, Region 10 regional program manager]

Since 2004, NHTSA’s Office of Research and Program Development has housed recent Master of Public Health graduates as Fellows in partnership with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH).  Fellows help strengthen the interface between public health and traffic injury prevention, supporting safety initiatives that advance NHTSA’s mission.  Currently, six Fellows work across various NHTSA program and research offices.  Three Fellows, Nicole Booker, Noelle Ortiz, and Monika Ramnarayan, recently visited the Pacific Northwest to better understand NHTSA’s efforts in western States.

[Photo: Dr. Beth Ebel at the HIPRC]

The Fellows joined NHTSA Regional Administrator, Greg Fredericksen, to help NHTSA staff host the Region 10 Leadership and Training Forum in Boise, Idaho.  The forum brought together staff from the State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington to discuss communication, problem identification, and new grant requirements.  SHSO staff presented on effective local programs and challenges each State faces.  The Fellows dined on local fair, like the local favorite Big Jud’s, and took a tour of the State Capitol with Lisa Losness of Idaho’s SHSO.

The Fellows next presented on their research to the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC), a Seattle partner to NHTSA and Washington (WA) State’s traffic safety community.  Noelle shared her study observing pedestrian and driver distraction in Washington D.C.  Monika discussed her project analyzing racial and ethnic disparities in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.  Nicole then addressed occupant protection challenges in identifying hard-to-reach populations.  HIPRC staff, led by Dr. Beth Ebel, then discussed data challenges and shared State experiences in injury prevention research and advocacy.  Dr. Ebel also suggested improvements to the Fellows’ methodologies.  Rob Kaufman, previous HIPRC manager of NHTSA’s Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN), then shared details of recent projects and Emergency Medical Service efforts in Seattle.

[Photo: Ms. Nicole Booker and Ms. Noelle Ortiz with Region 10 Administrator, Mr. Greg Fredericksen]

At the request of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) research director, Dr. Staci Hoff, the Fellows traveled to Olympia, WA, to present their traffic safety research projects to WTSC staff.  Topics included: motorcycle safety, pedestrian safety, alcohol impaired driving, occupant protection, and distracted driving enforcement.  Discussion allowed the Fellows to receive and provide constructive project feedback and recommendations for future research. Dr. Hoff talked about current traffic safety challenges in Washington and respective research being done by WTSC to address those challenges.  Before leaving Olympia, the Fellows visited Washington’s State capitol building.

The Fellows also spent time with Fredericksen and regional staff, on discussions on topics that included State specific challenges, geographic and topographic differences within and between States, how best to engage dynamic populations in traffic safety outreach, and integrating public health into traffic safety.

[Photo: The fellows with Mr. John Tomlinson of the Idaho Transportation Department (above) and inside Idaho’s Capitol (below)]