Martin Lavallière, Ph.D.

Researcher and professor at the Department of health sciences

Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC), Chicoutimi, Qc, Canada

  • How did you first get involved in road safety? Was there any person/s who encouraged or inspire you to get involved in road safety?

I first became involved in road safety when I started a research internship at Université Laval back in 2004 as an undergraduate part-time research assistant. I worked with a Ph.D. student, conducting a driving simulator experiment to evaluate the visual search of older drivers. Nothing prepared me for road safety initially since I was completing my bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with intentions to work in health and safety after graduating. Little did I know that this would become my master’s research project and the basis for my first scientific publications and presentations. During my master’s and PhD studies, I had the opportunity to work at the Table Québécoise de la sécurité routière (TSQR) as a scientist. Additionally, I worked part-time as an expert for the Fondation CAA-Québec, participating in various events such as the Grand Prix F1 de Montréal, car shows, and the training of future police officers.

One of the most important persons who encouraged me on this journey into road safety was my master’s and Ph.D. supervisor, Normand Teasdale.  I had the privilege of working with him from 2004 to 2013, during which I had the opportunity to experience personal and professional growth. Under his guidance, I broadened my expertise and grew my skill sets, to become a leading researcher in this field. I would not be in my current position today without acknowledging the contributions of my other colleagues and fellow graduate students, with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating on various projects over the years.

  • What area of road safety are you mostly involved with?

Research! I’m a researcher at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi in the Department of Health Sciences. My projects focus on expanding our understanding of collisions to develop and deploy better interventions aimed at improving road safety for all: from the kids walking to school, to an elderly running errands, to people who must drive as part of their work, such as truckers, paramedics or police officers.

More recently, I have begun receiving media requests pertaining to various road safety topics or on specific projects we are working on with my team and colleagues. I believe that sharing our knowledge is an important part of our work as researchers in this field because we often encounter misinformation regarding various topics in road safety. By communicating facts and knowledge about how we can make our driving/mobility and our environment safer, I believe we will make significant strides towards Vision Zero. 

  • Describe a current project/initiative you think CARSP members would like to hear about?

Alongside our Canadian colleagues, including Christine Wickens and CARSP, we are currently engaged in a project that examines police officers’ perceptions of enforcement. I’m convinced that this ongoing project will help us in tailoring more effective interventions for the general public and will receive strong support from police officers. We also have ongoing projects looking at the fatigue of truck drivers, with colleagues Dorrie Rizzo and Alex Crizzle, as well as the impact of various health conditions on the capacity to drive safely with colleagues Camille Savoie and Marie Claude Ouimet.

  • How do you envision road safety in a future?

As a lifelong goal, I envision that together we can achieve Vision Zero across the globe. In some jurisdictions, it might take longer than others, but let’s stay focused. When I started my postdoc at MIT AgeLab in 2013, they said the fully autonomous vehicle would be ready by 2020. They were partially right! We have taken a huge leap in terms of advancement and the development of new driving aids and technologies, but we have also seen significant setbacks with inappropriate behaviors behind the wheel due to these technologies (for example drivers voluntarily sleeping while traveling along a highway). Technology and engineering will help road safety, but we all have to work together to prioritize road safety, making it more than just a phrase that motorists perceive as an attack on their autonomy.

  • How does road safety influence your personal life’s choices?

My life’s choices are engrained in mobility, road safety and an active lifestyle. Together with my wife, we have chosen to live in an environment that we can consider a “15-minute city”. We live within walking distance of our sons’ school, work, shopping and other amenities. We really enjoy living in Chicoutimi as it offers benefits of a major urban centre while being an enclave in nature with many recreational opportunities.

The little heart is where I live!

Below is a photo of my family (Marlène, Myself, William (7), Adam (5), James (5))