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James C. Fell

Pronouns: He/Him

Principal Research Scientist
Jim is a nationally recognized traffic safety researcher. His work includes evaluations of the effectiveness of strategies to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.  

Jim’s areas of expertise include behavioral studies in traffic safety, evaluating impaired driving countermeasures, research on underage drinking, and determining the effectiveness of various alcohol policies and safety issues associated with the legalization of marijuana in the states. Jim’s recent projects include a study of the minimum legal marijuana use age 21 laws and enforcement in California, determining the prevalence of certain drugs found in the blood of serious and fatally injured drivers from seven trauma centers around the country, a public survey of underutilized strategies to reduce traffic fatalities, a special impaired driving enforcement effort in Maryland, and a study of DUI in Miami-Dade County (FL). 

Jim’s current projects include “State of Knowledge and Practice – Impaired Driving Technology,” sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This involves a comprehensive literature review and investigation into the extent of use of the technology. Another project funded by NHTSA is “Successful Impaired Driving Task Forces” which involves discussions with State Impaired Driving Task Force members to determine best practices. In addition, Jim has a project  “Examine Issues with Prosecuting Driving-Under-the-Influence-of-Drugs (DUID) Cases” funded also by NHTSA in which discussions with state prosecutors will document issues with prosecuting DUID. An example of a past project was “Public Acceptance of Underutilized Strategies in Traffic Safety” funded by the National Safety Council which involved a survey of public support for specific countermeasures in traffic safety.

During the 1990s, when states were considering lowering their illegal BAC limit for driving from .10 g/dL to .08 g/dL, Jim co-authored one of the first studies showing the effectiveness of laws lowering the BAC levels on reducing impaired driving fatal crashes. Subsequently, Jim was invited by officials in 12 states to provide expert testimony on the merits of lowering the BAC to .08 (DE, DC, IL, IN, MD, MN, MO, NE, NC, TN, TX, and WV). In 2000, President Clinton signed a bill providing a strong incentive for all states to lower the BAC limit to .08; all states and the District of Columbia eventually adopted the law. More recently, Jim collaborated with Dr. Robert Voas on various articles demonstrating the rationale and summarizing the evidence to lower the BAC limit from the current .08 g/dL to .05 g/dL. With co-author Michael Scherer, he conducted a meta-analysis of studies around the world evaluating various BAC limits. It was concluded that if the U.S. adopted a .05 BAC limit nationwide, it could save up to 1790 lives each year.

Based on an accumulation of his research studies and publications over many years, Jim was named to Stanford University's Top 2% Scientists in the World for 2023. He also received the Chairman's Award from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program for his contributions over many years as a member and treasurer.



State University of New York at Buffalo


State University of New York at Buffalo

Appointments & Affiliations

Strategic Planning | 2022 - 2024

International Council on Alcohol, Drugs & Traffic Safety

Consultant | 2019

United Nations

Honors & Awards

Top 2% Scientists in the World | 2023

Stanford University

Chairman's Award | 2023

Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP)

Award of Merit | 2019

Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM)

Haddon Award | 2019

International Council on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety (ICADTS)

Who’s Who in America | 2018


The Donald F. Huelke Lifetime Membership Award | 2016

Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM)

Kevin Quinlan Advocacy Award for tremndous dedication, conviction, and leadership to making Maryland's roadways safer, specifically through impaired driving prevention | 2015

Maryland Highway Safety Office

Project Contributions

Effective Traffic Safety Messaging

Developing an evaluation framework for traffic safety campaigns


Traffic Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine

Alcohol and Other Drug Use by Vehicle Crash Victims

First study of the prevalence of alcohol and drugs in seriously injured victims of motor vehicle crashes


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)