Shellhammer is Project Director 
Community Awareness Event Planned for July 4 Holiday

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Rural Health and Safety has received $104,000 in federal funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the Indiana County Highway Safety Project, a program designed to promote safe driving, including seat belt use, in the region.

The Indiana County Highway Safety Project grant focuses on the PennDOT District 10 counties of Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana, and Jefferson. Through a cooperative agreement with the boards of commissioners of these counties and the IUP Institute of Rural Health and Safety, the program is designed to offer information and education to serve the statistically identified traffic safety needs for groups in those communities. 

The project, expanded to include a number of community partners throughout the District 10 region, was reinstated at IUP after a five-year absence. It is coordinated by Amy Shellhammer, a long-time teacher in the United School District, who joined the IUP community in March. The project is part of the Institute for Rural Health and Safety’s ongoing Community Traffic Safety Project. The grant funding extends for three years.

In addition to her 26 years of experience in the classroom, Shellhammer has a strong background in technology, administration, and data and project management. She planned and developed the inaugural program for the United School District school-wide positive behavior intervention and support program, was the PRIDE Club Advisor, worked with the student assistance program for more than two decades, and planned and developed the inaugural program for the United Giving Our Girls Inspiration and Resources for Lasting Self-Esteem (U GO GIRLS). She also was an advisor to the middle school student council and was an assistant coach for junior high girls’ basketball. She also served as assistant principal in the district. Shellhammer earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s equivalence in education from IUP.

“Amy brings a great deal of experience and expertise in education and community relationships to this position,” Director of the Institute for Rural Health and Safety Louis Pesci said. “The previous Highway Safety Project had been successfully operating for many years, and Amy has already hit the ground running, including building on the good work of Kevin Wolford, who retired in December from the position of Community Traffic Safety Project coordinator. We are very pleased to welcome Amy to the Institute,” he said.

“I am excited to join IUP’s Institute for Rural Health and Safety. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented team of individuals,” Shellhammer said. “It is my hope that I can make a difference in the health and safety of our community. Coming from 26 years in the school setting and having a teenage son of my own, I am especially focused on seeking out ways to better protect our younger drivers.”

One of Shellhammer’s first tasks is to establish new contacts as well as organizations and individuals previously involved with the program to address the targeted traffic safety activities.

Some of the highway safety issues to be addressed are occupant protection, aggressive driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, and teen driver safety. These goals are in alignment with the national and state goal to decrease traffic fatalities, Shellhammer said.

The project goals also include supporting law enforcement initiatives, including coordinating specialized technical trainings for law enforcement and magisterial district judges to provide the latest crash information and technology. The project also acts as a resource to community safety groups to loan supplies for lesson support, such as the Fatal Vision Goggles for driving under the influence and underage drinking programs, and the Fatal Reaction kit to address distracted driving.

The District 10 area includes approximately 427,000 residents who are traveling on 9,044 miles of mostly rural roadways. According to PennDOT statistics, highway crashes continue to be a threat to the health and safety of highway users throughout the region, Shellhammer said. From 2017 to 2021, there were 2,290 crashes in the region, and the 255 fatalities resulting from crashes in the region were not wearing seat belts.

“Drunk and impaired driving, aggressive driving and speeding, and distracted driving continues to be a significant factor in fatal crashes,” she said. “Young drivers (ages 16 to 24) and older drivers (over the age of 65) are overrepresented in all collisions,” Shellhammer said. “Education about these issues is a major part of the Project objective,” she said.

In addition to her ongoing work on social media, outreach to area schools and agencies, attendance at a number of community events for the Project’s targeted audiences, and a media awareness project for April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Shellhammer is working with the Indiana County Commissioners, Pennsylvania State Police, Sheriff Bob Fyock, and a local insurance agency an awareness campaign about for safe driving during the summer holiday season.

“Last year in District 10, there were 49 traffic fatalities. We would like to remind people to be safe and be smart over the Independence Day holiday by bringing awareness to this and placing 49 small American flags on the courthouse front lawn prior to July 4,” she said. “There will also be a banner explaining what these 49 flags represent, sponsored by Margy Gray of State Farm Insurance.

Shellhammer is available to present programming to area groups and organizations. She can be reached at 724-357-1352 or by email at

About the Institute for Rural Health and Safety

The IUP Institute for Rural Health and Safety began in the early 1980s as the Highway Safety Center. The mission of the Institute for Rural Health and Safety is to bring together university personnel from various disciplines and professional backgrounds to assist the people of Pennsylvania and national and international organizations in solving problems related to highway traffic safety while maintaining the values of good transportation.

Applying university resources toward traffic improvement, the Institute for Rural Health and Safety is a liaison between university personnel and state and local officials; business, industrial, and professional interests; and other groups and individuals.

The institute’s program encompasses activity in five major areas:

  • Research, surveys, and studies
  • Education (teaching)
  • Training and conferences
  • Field and extension services
  • Traffic safety communications and information exchange

Within these areas, the Institute for Rural Health and Safety offers the following:

  • Increased awareness of traffic safety issues in Pennsylvania
  • First-responder, emergency medical technician, paramedic, and CPR training
  • Driver improvement programs for police officers, ambulance personnel, and the public
  • Undergraduate and graduate courses in driver education
  • Industrial fire brigade and emergency response team training
  • Driver improvement programs for private fleets