Anne T. McCartt is senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Dr. McCartt has worked in the highway safety field for more than 25 years and has been with the Institute since 2002. She has authored more than 150 technical reports and scientific papers in such areas as distracted driving, alcohol-impaired driving, large truck safety, young drivers, side airbag effectiveness and occupant restraints. She was President of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine and has served on numerous expert committees.
Dr. McCartt received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a doctorate from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, State University of New York at Albany.
Dr. McCartt started in highway safety research in 1982, when she was hired by a research institute at the State University of New York at Albany to evaluate an innovative New York law to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. It increased penalties for DWI but also established the STOP-DWI program, which remains the largest self-sustaining program in alcohol and highway safety in the world. The evaluation found the law was highly effective in increasing arrests and reducing DWI-related crashes. She was “hooked” on highway safety research.
Dr. McCartt doctorate is in public administration and policy and it’s not surprising that what she has loved about her career as a highway safety researcher is the opportunity to do research that has affected policy. Since joining the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 9 years ago, the scope of her research expanded to include roadway safety (e.g., roundabouts) and vehicle safety. She came to appreciate that there are various ways to affect safety. On the vehicle side, that means not only laws and regulation, but also influencing consumers and manufacturers through consumer information programs, like crash tests.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
When I began my career in highway safety, there were few women in the workplace, including auto or highway safety. Over the years more women have assumed leadership positions in state governments and at the federal level. There are more female researchers although it seems that female representation has lagged in some fields – for example, engineering and human factors. Perhaps the lower profile of women in the automotive industry and automotive research reflects to some extent the perception that only men are interested in cars. I hope this will change as more women enter the field of engineering.
Who have you mentored who did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
I was lucky to have been mentored by my graduate school advisor and my first two bosses; all were very smart, secure men who appreciated and encouraged my ambitions. As a manager, I try to give my staff this same encouragement and have worked hard to make sure women get equal opportunities in my various jobs.
As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
My favorite vehicle features are the safety ones, especially Electronic Stability Control, a remarkably effective technology.
A researcher’s ultimate goal would be doing research that makes a difference in the world. My proudest professional achievement is being Senior Vice President for Research at IIHS, where I’ve had the opportunity to do research that is keeping people safer. I think I have the best research job in highway safety in the world.
Current challenge at work?
There are two big challenges at work. One is figuring out how to conduct good research on the emerging crash avoidance technologies. It is challenging because the development of these technologies is proceeding at a very fast pace, they have important difference, and we need new tools to study them. One particular challenge is understanding how the technologies will affect the driving task and how drivers will use and accept them. A second challenge is ensuring that we have strong young researchers who are getting the right training and experience to be the next generation of leaders in a rapidly changing field.
What you do to relax?
I relax by reading; gardening at my home in the country in Saratoga County, New York; rooting for the Yankees; and spending time with my family and pets (3 cats and a dog).
For more information visit the IIHS website.