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Planning for Safe Drivers at the Nexus of Equity, Mobility, and Safety

March 4 at 11:00 am

Motor vehicle crashes are one of the most significant, and the most preventable, public health issues especially for children and teens. For planners, teen driver licensing sits at the nexus of equity, mobility, and safety: we must equip teens with safe driving skills to ensure mobility (as, outside of the densest urban cores, automobiles remain the key to mobility), yet we must also ensure safety which often means limiting access to licensure and imposing costly training barriers. My research aims to uncover inequities in the acquisition of driving skills and licensure for teens, with the goal of helping agencies craft policies that support safe and equitable mobility for teens. I begin with a review of the current state of driver training and licensing and the underlying equity-mobility-safety conflicts. I then cover highlights from my research program focused on the unique challenges and inequities facing teen drivers in securing a driver license as well as safe driving skills. We establish the concept of Driver Training Deserts – areas of geographical and financial disconnection to driver training and link residing in a DTD with lower licensure rates and challenges acquiring certain driving skills. We conclude with a look ahead to analyzing the impact of interventions, including a current Driver Training Scholarship pilot. This research is performed in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and uses data from a virtual driving assessment adopted by the State of Ohio and delivered immediately prior to the on-road licensing examination, linked with vast state licensing and crash data.

Professor Megan S. Ryerson is the UPS Foundation Chair of Transportation and Professor of Transportation Planning and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ryerson is the Associate Department Chair of City and Regional Planning and was the Associate Dean for Research at Penn’s Weitzman School of Design where she grew awarded grants by over 300% during her five year tenure. She has published 65 peer-reviewed publications, won numerous awards including Woman of the Year from Women’s Transportation Seminar, and delivered lectures and appeared in media across the globe. Dr. Ryerson’s research is dedicated to making intercity and urban transportation systems safer, equitable, and accessible. Her major contributions include developing new metrics to evaluate bicycle lane safety; uncovering inequities in the accessibility of driving skills for teens; and pioneering new methods to estimate transportation systems accessibility. She is an Affiliate Research Scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where she collaborates with bioengineers, pediatricians, and neuroscientists to develop innovative safety research. Dr. Ryerson has partnered with transit agencies (SEPTA, WMATA); micro-mobility companies (Lime, Bird, Indego); transportation agencies (PennDOT, Ohio Department of Public Safety); and airports (PHL, PANYNJ) to translate her research into practice.


U-M Transportation Research (UMTRI)
2901 Baxter Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105 United States
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