The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) conducts research to save lives, save time, save money, and protect the environment. Researchers and students from multiple fields are continuously developing the techniques and technologies to solve transportation challenges from vehicular, driver, infrastructure, and environmental perspectives.
VTTI has grown from approximately 15 faculty, staff, and students to become the second largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S. with nearly 400 employees. As one of seven premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, VTTI has effected significant change in public policies for driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety and is advancing the design of vehicles and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce environmental impacts.
In all endeavors, the VTTI community is charged with finding solutions to the greatest transportation challenges facing not only the nation but the world. Those of the Institute are truly dedicating their lives to saving lives.
VTTI at a Glance
VTTI has more than $40 million in annual sponsored program research expenditures.
VTTI annually supports an average of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students and produces more than 140 publications per year.
Most notable among VTTI endeavors are its naturalistic driving studies. Thanks to the internally developed data acquisition system, VTTI researchers are able to gather continuous video and driving performance data in real-world driving conditions. To date, these systems have been installed in nearly 4,000 vehicles deployed nationally and internationally.
VTTI ensures its national and global success by employing a select team of multidisciplinary researchers, engineers, technicians, support staff, and students.
To accomplish its groundbreaking research, VTTI uses a range of tools, including the Virginia Smart Road and data acquisition systems. These capabilities have earned VTTI an exclusive standing in the transportation research field, making it a renowned option for transportation research, analysis, and development.
At its core, VTTI is a family; we are a community committed to conducting cutting-edge research to save lives.
VTTI studies have shown that looking away from the roadway just prior to the occurrence of an unexpected event is responsible for up to 90% of crash and near-crash events.
The VTTI Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations study found that texting while driving raises a heavy truck driver’s crash and near-crash risk by 23 times. This statistic has been touted nationally, from the New York Times to the Ad Council to AT&T.
The “23 times” message helped lead U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) to issue a call to end distracted driving. Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging for all drivers.
VTTI teen driving studies have shown that teens are four times more likely to get into a crash or near-crash while distracted than their adult counterparts. Teen fatalities are three times greater than adult fatalities, so this is an important discovery of the prominence of a major causal factor.
VTTI light-vehicle naturalistic driving studies have shown that driver drowsiness is a significantly greater factor in crashes and near-crashes than was previously thought. Like heavy-truck drivers, light-vehicle drivers get into crashes and near-crashes between 15% and 20% of the time while at least moderately drowsy. Previous estimates were between 4% and 8%.
The VTTI-developed data acquisition system provided the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) the information required to evaluate its hours-of-service regulations (e.g., off-duty time, on-duty time, breaks, re-start provisions). FMCSA adjusted its hours-of-service safety requirements, reducing by 12 the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week (i.e., from 82 to 70 hours).
The VTTI Teen Risk and Injury Prevention (TRIP) group is currently developing a teen driving program that provides monitoring and feedback via the VTTI data acquisition system. As a result of their work, researchers with the TRIP group have been featured on the Discovery Channel, 20/20, and 60 Minutes—Australia.
These studies represent only a small fragment of the work performed at VTTI. An Onboard Monitoring System Field Operational Test is currently being conducted that will result in the largest truck and motorcoach naturalistic data set to date. VTTI researchers were recently tapped by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to conduct the first large-scale, naturalistic motorcycle study. In fact, the national success of VTTI has generated research efforts on a global scale. Currently, VTTI is leading naturalistic driving studies in China, Canada, and Australia, with plans to expand international efforts.