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ODU Seat Belt Research Gets Media Attention

Picture of ODU student Jessica Ladage monitoring seat belt use with Pilot reporterJessica Ladage monitors seat belt use while being interviewed by Virginian-Pilot reporter Dave Forster. (Photo by Martin Smith-Rodden/The Virginian-Pilot) Photo of ODU psychology professor Bryan PorterProfessor Bryan Porter. (Photo by Martin Smith-Rodden/The Virginian-Pilot)

After their seat belt research was featured in The Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, an experimental psychology team from Old Dominion University led by Bryan Porter, professor of psychology, was invited to publicize their findings on radio station WRVA in Richmond.

The recipient of several research grants from the state of Virginia, Porter and his students have been commissioned to survey seat belt usage by Virginia motorists. Findings from their roadside surveys are being used to identify the drivers and areas in Virginia that could most benefit from public information and enforcement campaigns.

Jessica Ladage, a graduate student who works with Porter, was interviewed Monday by a WRVA broadcaster.

Ladage noted in the radio interview that people who are polled by phone report a higher rate of usage than what the surveyors actually see, which was around 78 percent according to one daytime survey last summer.

Other findings: women buckle up more than men, automobile drivers more than pickup drivers, and older drivers more than young ones. Also, Ladage said drivers who don't buckle up seem to be more likely to engage in other activities that can be dangerous, such as texting while under way.

The Pilot article featured quotes from Porter and Ladage, and also noted the work graduate student Isabel Balk has done on the project. On Tuesday, The Pilot also published an editorial about the ODU team's seat belt study and legislative action that could improve Virginia's usage rate.

As for the radio interview, Porter said, "Jessica did a great job representing our work and ODU. Students do not often have media opportunities, which is unfortunate as through them we faculty get much credit. I was very pleased she had this opportunity and gained experience sharing the science to a broad audience."

The interview can be heard at http://www.1140wrva.com/player/?station=WRVA-AM&program_name=podcast&program_id=RMNPodcasts.xml&mid=23155541.

Porter is an expert on the psychological underpinnings of dangerous driving habits. He is known internationally for his work assessing automatic photo-enforcement to reduce red-light running. His research has also probed tailgating/following too closely, pedestrian safety and general traffic safety.