The conference was extremely fun to attend, and it was eye opening to see and get different perspectives on traffic safety from all types of professionals. I enjoyed going to many different sessions on a variety of transportation safety aspects and learning how my background in civil engineering could mesh with other people’s backgrounds (such as a Public Health Official or a police department Community Resource Officer) to improve safety for everyone involved. One session was on Driver Assistance Technologies, which are the first step towards automated vehicles, and how new technologies like lane assistance and back up cameras are being tested and implemented. Another session focused on “wrong way” crashes and how to help prevent them. While crashes that occur as a result of traveling the wrong way on a road are relatively rare, due to their nature the crashes themselves are often very bad. Learning that even simple measures just as putting up increased warning signs and making pavement markings clearer and more visible can dramatically decrease those crash rates while being relatively inexpensive at the same time. My favorite session would have to have been the one titled “Let’s Share! Changing roadway User Behavior through Engineering”. It was particularly interesting to me because it focused on engineering better roadways by shifting the focus from just getting as many cars through a road as possible to instead focus on how cities can make it safer to share the road with pedestrians and bikers. Many cities are taking a “road diet” approach to reduce the number of lanes on a road without actually reducing the number of cars the road can handle, and that reduction in lanes makes it easier for pedestrians to be seen and cross safely. To keep it interesting (not that I needed help paying attention), some of the speakers included some funny relevant comics in their presentations too.
Lifesavers was a great conference to attend not only because of going to different sessions, but because there were other students like me who were able to attend and present their research. Learning what other cutting edge research is currently being done was a fun experience, but just meeting, talking, and networking with my peers was awesome in and of itself. I definitely came away with a few new friends who I’ll enjoy seeing grow and develop in their professional careers.
And conferences can be fun too! Because the Convention Center where it was held was right next to the NASCAR museum, the conference gave everyone who attended a free pass to go into the museum on Monday afternoon. Coming from a family who is big into NASCAR, I had a fantastic time walking around the museum and seeing the history, and even got Bobby Allison’s autograph!
After attending Lifesavers and seeing how roadway safety is being improved and what we can do to work towards having zero roadway deaths, I would definitely recommend any student interested in transportation or road safety to attend. Personally, I feel that I came away with a lot of valuable knowledge and friendships that will help me in my career down the road and I hope to be able to attend the conference again in the future.
- Neal Paschal