After more than 30 years of accomplished dedication, Dr. Jane Stutts retired from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center in July - leaving behind a legacy of a devoted, knowledgeable researcher, and a role model for any working woman.
Dr. Stutts left the Center as Associate Director for Social and Behavioral Research, where she was responsible for coordinating HSRC's research and programmatic activities related to the driver performance aspects of transportation safety. In her tenure at the Center, Jane has managed a variety of projects in a number of related areas to highway safety and has authored over 100 articles and technical reports. Upon retirement, her primary focus was on older drivers and driver distraction.
Jane began her education at Wake Forest University, where she received her bachelor's degree in psychology in 1972. She went on to earn a master's degree from Georgia State University in early childhood education in spring 1974. After moving to Chapel Hill and working in a temporary position elsewhere in the University, Stutts joined the roster at HSRC as a research associate in August 1975. While at the Center Jane began the pursuit of her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with her doctorate in epidemiology, while also successfully filling the roles of wife and mother to her two daughters.
"After spending time in the highway safety arena, I found my interests and focus becoming more defined. I was sure that I wanted to expand my knowledge and further develop my research skills. With having an interest in public health, I saw a great opportunity to pursue my doctorate in epidemiology and link that to the study of highway safety."
Since then, she has led projects that have been funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, General Motors Corporation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program.
Even with her many notable accomplishments, Jane says, "I don't think I can say that I accomplished anything entirely by myself. That is, in all my accomplishments, there were always others who helped and contributed to any successful outcome."
But if she had to choose, Jane says her proudest efforts would be those related to older drivers on a state and national level, and her work with distracted driving.
"Since I first began working in the older driver area in the late 1980s/early 90s, there has been a huge increase in interest in the topic, and while there is still much to be learned, I think we're beginning to see results from the research that's been carried out over the past two decades. I'd like to think that I have, and will continue to, contribute to this success. As far as distracted driving, the study that we did for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety was one of the first to utilize video cameras to record people's activities while driving. There were many, many challenges to collecting and analyzing these data, so much so that the project was nearly aborted. But this was definitely a case where perseverance paid off, and I was grateful to my colleagues for hanging in there with me!"
In addition to her research career, Dr. Stutts has been an active participant in many Transportation Research Board activities, including six years as chair of the Committee on Bicycling, membership on the Committee on the Safety and Mobility of Older Persons, membership and chair of the safety section on the Group 3 Council, and participation on two National Research Council appointed committees - the Steering Committee for a Conference on Transportation in an Aging Society, and the TRB-IOM Committee on Physical Activity, Health, Transportation, and Land Use. She is also active in the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, and served on its Scientific Program Committee from 1998-2001.
A tireless member of the HSRC team, Jane plans to continue her work in highway safety on a semi-regular basis. But her plans for the first day off the job?
"I'm going to clean my house!"
Congratulations on a remarkable career, Jane.
The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300 | Campus Box 3430 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203 | Fax: 919.962.8710