USU’S Greg Madden works to curtail idling in school zones

USU psychology professor Gregory Madden (left) is part of a team led by chemical engineering assistant professor Kerry Kelly from the University of Utah, which has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to test their theory by placing air-pollution displays at several schools and hospitals throughout the state. Photo courtesy of Utah State University

LOGAN – Utah State University psychology professor Greg Madden has joined a team of researchers tasked with creating air pollution displays they hope will curtail idling vehicles in drop off areas at schools and hospitals.

“We’re going to try to provide feedback to individuals who are in these areas in which a lot of idling occurs,” Madden explained, “and to try to provide some positive feedback to people when they do choose to turn off their engine.

“We’ll provide this immediate feedback indicating that pollution levels in this local environment have gone down, and that’s good for the kids, so thank you for doing that.”

Dr. Madden, who specializes in behavioral economics, said the goal is to create air pollution displays — similar to flashing speed limit displays that alert motorists to slow down.

“We’re working on crafting these messages. We’ve got several that we’re toying around with now and we’re about to begin some work where we do some online surveys to find out which one of these messages do you find most compelling, which of these messages do you think would actually cause you to turn your vehicle off.”

The pilot project will involve placing signs at drop-off zones at one school and one hospital each in Salt Lake and Cache counties. Micro sensors will measure in real time what the local micro climate of pollution is in the immediate drop off and loading area.

The research team is led by University of Utah chemical engineering assistant professor Kerry Kelly and has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

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