November 2014 Catalyst

November 2014
Although teen drivers make up a small percentage of the U.S. driving population, they are at an especially high risk of being involved in a crash. Factors that contribute to teen drivers’ risk include their lack of experience and their tendency to engage in unsafe behaviors while behind the wheel. To help teen drivers stay safe on the road, researchers at the U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory have been working for nearly 10 years on the development of the Teen Driver Support System. The smartphone-based system is a comprehensive application that provides real-time, in-vehicle feedback to teens about their risky behaviors—and reports those behaviors to parents if teens don’t heed the system’s warnings.
When considering Minnesota’s economic advantages, analysts and policymakers often mention factors such as a well-trained workforce, rich natural resources, or diverse manufacturing industries. But one important factor may be overlooked: a vibrant freight rail network. Since 2012, researchers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have been examining this factor in a study funded by the BNSF Railway Foundation. As part of the study, the research team investigated the role of freight rail in Minnesota’s economy—particularly in rail-related industry clusters such as agriculture, mining, processed food, and manufacturing.
Cornstalks may not be the first thing that comes to mind for keeping rural roads clear in the winter. But when stalks near roadsides are left standing after fall harvest, they become a living snow fence, reducing the amount of snow blowing onto roads. To help determine reimbursement costs for farmers and choose which roads are good candidates, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) uses a snow control cost/benefit tool developed by University of Minnesota researchers. In a new MnDOT-funded project, CTS and U of M Extension are developing a website to host the tool and related snow-control resources.
In a study sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, a multidisciplinary research team developed methods and guidelines for assessing and improving the pollution prevention of roadside swales (low-lying tracts of land). The team conducted an infiltration study to measure the infiltration rates of roadside swales, and developed and tested a runoff-flow routing model and a filtration system. Finally, they combined the best available knowledge on swale maintenance with information collected from new surveys to develop recommendations for swale maintenance schedules and effort.
Publication Credits 

Publisher/Director: Laurie McGinnis
Managing Editor: Pamela Snopl
Editors: Christine Anderson, Amy Friebe, Michael McCarthy
Designer: Angela Kronebusch
Freelance Writer: Megan Tsai