400-Mile Bicycle Ride Highlights Florida Road Safety Tour

Road safety advocates rode their bicycles from Orlando to Tallahassee as part of the third annual Survive the Drive GEICO Road Safety Bicycle Tour.

During the week-long event, participants brought their message of commitment to road safety to students and communities at Florida universities. Eighteen firefighters, police officers, and civilians participated in the strenuous 400-mile ride to bring awareness to the issue.

The tour’s closing events took place on a recent Thursday morning in Tallahassee. Safety fair attendees enjoyed exhibits such as the “fatal vision” station, where goggles simulated the effects of various levels of alcohol intoxication, and received free gifts such as bicycle helmets and fittings.

Following the safety fair, attendees listened to speakers address the crowd from the steps of the Old Capitol.

At noon, police officers rang their sirens to announce that the 18 cyclists had arrived in Tallahassee. Spectators could see them climb the steep Apalachee Parkway as they made their way toward the Old Capitol.

The tour was funded by the Dori Slosberg Foundation, various Florida agencies, and the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation.

“The commitment to road safety that has been shown through the riders and through every agency that has participated in this is because of the deadly statistics, especially in the demographic of college students,” said Tara Kirschner, executive director of the Dori Slosberg Foundation. “College students were the focus of this week to make sure that the tragedies on the road, fatalities and serious injuries will decrease through awareness and education.”

The Dori Slosberg foundation is named for the daughter of State Representative Irving Slosberg. She was killed in a car accident while riding without a seatbelt.

White House Proposes Human Brain Mapping Initiative

The White House recently released new details on President Obama’s proposed initiative to map the human brain.

The project, called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), may pave the way for important advances in understanding and treating traumatic brain injury (TBI). Treatment options for TBI are currently quite limited. Also, doctors’ understanding of what makes for effective rehabilitation is undergoing rapid change.

In a press conference on April 2, 2013, President Obama proposed that the government’s fiscal year 2014 budget contain an initial expenditure toward the project of $100 million. BRAIN is projected to cost as much as $3 billion and take ten years or longer.

The goal of the initiative is to map the activity of every neuron in the human brain. Researchers hope the information will help not only brain injury patients but also Alzheimer’s, autism, and epilepsy patients.

The White House press release said the $100 million to pay for the project will come from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“The BRAIN Initiative will accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought,” the White House statement said. “These technologies will open new doors to explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information, and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behavior.”

Occasional Seatbelt Users Less Likely to Buckle Up on Local Trips

A study published recently in the research journal Accident Analysis and Prevention analyzes the habits of drivers who only occasionally use seatbelts. The report, which used data from monitoring devices installed in 100 vehicles, shows that reluctant seatbelt users are more likely to buckle up for trips on high speed roads.

The majority of accidents – and the majority of driving – occurs on low-speed roads close to drivers’ homes, where drivers and passengers use seatbelts at lower rates. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that if drivers and front-seat passengers always used seatbelts, traffic fatalities would fall by 45 percent.

“We wanted to find out what makes occasional seatbelt users buckle up more than half the time,” said Jon Hankey, a director of the study at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “They know it is a good idea, so why don’t they do it all of the time?”

The study was the first of its kind. Over the course of one year, instruments in 100 cars gathered data on more than 150,000 trips by 108 primary drivers and 299 secondary drivers. Participants answered questionnaires designed to measure certain personality traits such as aggression and risk-taking.

“The first objective was to determine if there were variables, such as trip distance, speed, and time of day, that uniquely characterized consistent, occasional, and infrequent seatbelt users,” said Hankey.

“The second objective was to conduct a more detailed analysis of the group defined as occasional seatbelt users to identify factors associated with these drivers’ decisions to wear their belts on some trips but not others,” he added.

Data showed primary drivers wore their seatbelts 79.1 of the time and second drivers buckled up 81.2 percent of the time. Researchers found that during trips around town averaging 30 mph, occasional seatbelt users opted for the seatbelt 72.7 percent of the time, but trips averaging 50 mph saw seatbelt usage at 89.0 percent.

“Occasional users may have an unrealistic view of a certain trip’s risk, and an education program targeting this unrealistic view may have a significant impact on seatbelt compliance,” said NHTSA fellow Sharon P. Berlin.

The study also showed that individuals with more formal education were more likely to be consistent seatbelt users, and those with aggressive driving habits were more likely to be occasional seatbelt users.

The NHTSA is planning another, much larger, study, called the Strategic Highway Research Program. The study will involve driving data on 2,000 cars.