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Beyond the Ban

From left: Jenna Aiello, Josh Salsbury, Andrew Park and Keira Corbett.

Ohio roads are safer with the texting ban in place. Four ONU alumni helped make it that way.

On June 1, 2012, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 99, officially banning the practice known as texting-while-driving in the state of Ohio. The bill arrived on his desk more than a year after four Ohio Northern University students stood before state lawmakers in Columbus and convinced them of its need.

Jenna Aiello, BS ’12, Keira Corbett, BS ’12, Andrew Park, BS ’12, and Joshua Salsbury, BS ’12, testified before the Ohio House Committee on Transportation and Public Safety in March 2012 using their own research to argue on behalf of a texting ban. Their scientific study not only found that text messaging is a distraction, but also offered proof that texting produces a negative effect on human physiology by impeding reaction times.

Since their testimony and follow-up presentation at the 120th Annual Meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science, the students continued to look into texting’s physiological impact with a study examining cardio-respiratory rates as a measure of stress. This research, coupled with their research on reaction times, was recently published in the January 2013 issue of The Ohio Journal of Science.

“We wanted to publish this research because we legitimately think that our findings fill an important gap in physiology knowledge,” says Salsbury. “Similar studies had been done prior to ours, but none of them measured the variables that we used in our study.”

Shaping what amounted to three distinct studies into one manuscript was a challenge made easier thanks to assistance and support from ONU’s biology professors Dr. Rema Suniga, Dr. Nancy Woodley and Dr. Vicki Motz.

“They aided us through the entire process. We can’t thank them enough,” says Park.

The combined experiences of designing a research study, conducting the actual research, synthesizing the data, presenting the results at an academic conference, and, finally, arguing for change to public policy on the merits of their work all contributed to the group’s desire to see their work published.

“[This experience] broadened my horizon on the steps taken to share research. We learn in school how to use others’ research and design experiments, but the next big step is sharing your results in the scientific community,” says Aiello.

Having their work available in research databases means that other scientists may expand on their findings and broaden our understanding of the ways that modern conveniences like smart phones can have unintended consequences.

“We are so obsessed with these devices and tending to them that it becomes second nature. I hope that our research and findings will have more of an effect on individuals than a public service announcement in helping them to realize the legitimate dangers of distracted driving and the limitations of our ability to multi-task,” says Park.

Since graduating last May, Aiello, Corbett, Park and Salsbury are staying busy within the world of science and research. Park is currently working at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, Ohio, as a medical scribe and plans to attend medical school this fall. Aiello is in their first year of dental school at Marquette University, and Corbett and Salsbury will attend Ohio State University this fall for dental school and physical therapy school, respectively.

The experience these students gained at Northern is sure to help with their future endeavors, particularly the experience they gained developing and then expanding a scientific research project to find the answers to their questions.

“The designing of a research project is an art form. You can tell the difference between a good design and a poor design,” says Corbett. “The tough part with science is you don’t always know the nature of the results until the very end of the study.”

That may be true, but in science and in life, there are clues along the way. The research project may be over, but more positive results are sure to come for these four alumni.