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Alumni Dispatches

Andrea “Nani” Ippel Barretto

MHS ’06

andrea barrettoTransportation Safety as a Public Health Concern

After learning of my employment at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), friends and family often ask, “What’s transportation got to do with public health?” Good question!

Well, the leading cause of death for teenagers is unintentional injury, with most of that coming from motor vehicle crashes. Recently I analyzed data on fatal motor vehicle crashes from 2003 to 2007 using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and isolated all teenagers ages 16 to 19 years old who died in these crashes. What I found was astonishing!

About 80 percent of them were either drivers themselves or passengers in vehicles in which the driver was younger than 20. Furthermore, for every teen driver killed, the data revealed that nearly two other individuals (e.g., passengers in same vehicle, drivers or passengers in other vehicles, or pedestrians) were killed. If traffic crashes involving teen drivers aren’t a public health concern, then I don’t know what is!

Because of this, some of my work at UMTRI involves investigating factors related to high-risk driving among novice teen drivers. Three factors we have found that contribute to teens’ increased crash risk are inexperience, risk-taking behavior and immaturity, and increased exposure to high-risk driving situations (e.g., nighttime driving, driving with passengers, and driving after drinking alcohol).

Many programs have been tried and tested to curb this increased crash risk, such as Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs. One project that I am involved in at UMTRI is a translation study (funded by the CDC) aimed to enhance the adherence of GDL requirements and the adoption of best practices in the driver licensure community. My work involves talking with parents and teens in a focus group setting about barriers to and facilitators of driver licensure through GDL, synthesizing the qualitative data that comes out of the focus groups, developing recommendations and guidelines to increase adherence to GDL requirements, and disseminating research findings to relevant stakeholders.

Another project that I am involved in is developing, implementing and evaluating a web-based tailored intervention/prevention program for college students aimed at reducing alcohol-related driving behaviors (e.g., driving after drinking, riding as a passenger with a drink-driver). This project is in its last year of a five-year study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Andrea Ippel Barretto spent two years in Zambia as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer working with the Zambian Ministry of Health from 2001 to 2003. She went on to receive her Master of Health Science degree at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a concentration on Social and Behavioral Interventions in the Department of International Health. She currently works as a Senior Research Associate at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in the department of Social and Behavioral Analysis in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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