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MATC Students Take Home MOVITE Paper Award

by Aaron Mack

Four MATC students recently took home “best paper” awards from the Missouri Valley Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (MOVITE) Thomas J. Seburn Student Paper Competition.

Engineering Ph.D. students Yifeng Chen, Chris Tung and Mo Zhao from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) received 1st place in the regional competition for their coauthored research paper, “Comparing Signing and Geometry to No Turn on Compliance.” Engineering Ph.D. student Zifeng Wu, also from UNL, was awarded 3rd place for her research, “Exploring Traffic Control Factors in Improving Safety at High-Speed Signalized Intersections.” Awards were given to papers judged to make the most outstanding contribution to transportation research.

The paper by Chen, Tung and Zhao detailed their data collection procedure and statistical analysis of no right turn on red (NTOR) compliance at intersections in the cities of Lincoln and Omaha, NE. The researchers sought to determine whether certain intersection characteristics, particularly geometry and signage, influenced drivers’ compliance with NTOR regulations. Maximizing driver compliance with NTOR has potentially profound effects on traffic flow and safety.

“We spent a lot of time in the field collecting data,” Chen said. “And we really put a lot of effort into our statistical analysis, and into the paper, itself.”

Chen and his colleagues found evidence that the presence of illuminated NTOR signage and the separation of right turn lanes from regular through movements were associated with decreased NTOR violation rates. The researchers used their data to propose recommendations for increasing NTOR compliance by intersection design. 

Wu’s paper described the methodology and results of a traffic safety analysis she undertook with the guidance of Dr. Anuj Sharma regarding countermeasures to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes at high-speed, signalized intersections. Specifically, the study investigated the effects of 5 and 10 mph speed limit reductions in the vicinity of high speed intersections equipped with Advanced Warning Flashers (AWF)—timed flashing signals positioned before the intersection that warn approaching vehicles to prepare for the red signal phase. Wu analyzed whether two factors—the timing of AWF signals and the degree of speed limit reduction (5 vs. 10 mph)—had a significant impact on intersection safety. The results of the analysis provided support for extended AWF warning times and demonstrated that 10 mph speed limit reductions significantly reduced the severity and frequency of crashes, while 5 mph reductions had no significant effect.

Wu said it was rewarding to see the culmination of months of analysis and hard work.  

“This has really been a surprise and an honor for me,” Wu said. “It’s great that being an international student, I still have had the chance to be awarded and share this honor with other students. Sometimes things like data reduction can seem like a very long process, but being recognized increases my confidence and makes me want to continue to do more, to try even harder in the future.”  

In addition to a certificate from MOVITE and a monetary award, the students were invited to the MOVITE 2013 Annual Meeting held in Des Moines, IA. The first place winners will present their research to an audience of transportation industry students and professionals.

The students wished to express their gratitude to MOVITE for providing this opportunity and recognition.