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Peter Savolainen - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Peter Savolainen

MSU Foundation Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering | Michigan State University


Peter Savolainen’s research examines the fundamental nature of road user behavior






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Peter Savolainen is an MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. During the course of his academic career, Savolainen has served as principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on more than $17 million of externally funded research through competitive grant awards from agencies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and various state departments of transportation.

Savolainen’s research examines the fundamental nature of road user behavior, particularly how traffic safety and operations are influenced by behavior in consideration of roadway and traffic characteristics. His work in this area has provided important information as to how road user behavior changes in response to such roadway features as maximum speed limits, centerline/shoulder rumble strips, and red-light-running cameras at signalized intersections. His research has also advanced fundamental knowledge as to how roadway design, environmental factors, and in-vehicle distractions affect the risk of traffic crashes.

This research has led to the publication of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and research reports, highlighted by a series of contributions in the areas of naturalistic driving research, countermeasure evaluation, and crash-injury severity analysis. Savolainen currently serves on the editorial advisory boards of Accident Analysis and Prevention and Analytic Methods in Accident Research, as well as on the Transportation Research Board Standing Committees on Statistical Methods and Motorcycles and Mopeds. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of Michigan.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Traffic Operations

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Statistical and Econometric Methods

Transportation Safety Data, Analysis, and Evaluation

Accomplishments (5)

Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan

May 2009 - October 2017

Best Paper Award

2017 Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Operational Effects of Geometrics

Best Paper Award

2017 Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Pedestrians

Charles W. Schaefer Award

2016 For Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service, Iowa State University Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Award for Transportation Excellence Through Research

2015 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Research Advisory Council

Education (3)

Purdue University: Ph.D., Civil Engineering 2006

Purdue University: M.S., Civil Engineering 2004

Michigan Technological University: B.S., Civil Engineering 2002

News (3)

E-Scooters Have Taken Over Many College Campuses. Now Scholars Are Studying the Phenomenon.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  online


Virginia Tech and Michigan State University recently announced research to collect and analyze real-time data on how the devices are being used.

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Studying The Impacts Of Autonomous Vehicles On The Workforce

MSU Today  online


The research team includes J. Kevin Ford, professor in the Department of Psychology; John Verboncoeur, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering; Peter Savolainen, associate chair for graduate studies in the College of Engineering; and Troy Hale, professor of practice in the MSU School of Journalism.

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Peter Savolainen: Are You An Excellent Driver?

360 Perspective  online


Peter Savolainen is a new MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering.

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Journal Articles (5)

Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving Railroad Crossing Signal Masts and Guardrails

Transportation Research Record

2019 The installation of “active” warning devices, such as crossing signals and gates, is a principal element of state and federal railroad crossing safety programs, and their effectiveness in preventing vehicle–train collision is well documented. While most active crossings are occupied by trains only a few minutes each day, non-crashworthy items are frequently present at active crossings including crossing signal masts, crossing gate mechanisms, cantilever supports, and signal controller bungalows.

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Examining Safety on Two-Lane and Multilane Highways in Consideration of Access Spacing

Transportation Research Record

2019 Access management strategies, such as the introduction of minimum access point spacing criteria and turning movement restrictions, have been shown to be important elements in optimizing the operational and safety performance of roadway segments. The relationship between safety and these types of access policies is a complex issue, and the impacts of such features on traffic crashes is critical to the development of appropriate access management strategies.

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Contrasting Crash-and Non-Crash-Involved Riders: Analysis of Data from the Motorcycle Crash Causation Study

Transportation Research Record

2019 Motorcycle crashes and fatalities remain a significant public health problem as fatality rates have increased substantially as compared to other vehicle types in the United States. Analysis of causal factors for motorcycle crashes is often challenging given a lack of reliable traffic volume data and the fact that such crashes comprise a relatively small portion of all traffic crashes.

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Analysis of Rural Interstate Fatality Rates in Consideration of Recent Increases in Maximum Statutory Speed Limits

Transportation Research Record

2019 The relationship between traffic safety and speed limits has been an area of significant research. Since the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Law in 1995, states have full autonomy in establishing maximum statutory speed limits. Since 2001, at least 25 states have increased their maximum limits to speeds as high as 85 mph.

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Safety analysis of interchange functional areas

Transportation Research Record

2018 Limited access facilities, such as freeways and expressways, are generally designed to the highest standards among public roads. Consequently, these facilities demonstrate crash, injury, and fatality rates that are significantly lower than other road facility types. However, these rates are generally elevated in the immediate vicinity of interchanges because of increases in traffic conflicts precipitated by weaving, merging, and diverging traffic.

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