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Vehicle Safety Key to New Project

The CIREN team’s focus is on injury causation in newer vehicles; focusing on cars, vans and light trucks that are no older than six years from the time of enrollment.

Grady and the Emory Injury Prevention Research Center have teamed up for a five-year, near $4 million project, to study motor vehicle crashes in metro-Atlanta that result in injuries treated at Grady. The project is done in conjunction with the University of Michigan, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and is part of the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) program.

“The goal is to improve vehicle safety and support injury prevention by collecting data on the performance of vehicles involved in crashes, and looking at the resulting injuries on patients brought in to Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center,” said Jonathan Rupp, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory and the study’s principal investigator.

How it works:   

  • The CIREN team identifies a patient with qualifying injuries in a qualifying vehicle, uses EMS and police data to locate the vehicle and crash scene, and then dispatches a crash investigator who measures and documents the damage to the interior and exterior of the vehicles involved
  • In parallel, detailed information is recorded about the injuries sustained by the vehicles’ occupants
  • Medical data and crash data collected are analyzed to identify how injuries occurred and the parts of the vehicle involved in causing these injuries.

“We bring all this information together for a case review to identify biomechanically how these injuries occurred,” Rupp said.

“For example, looking at how restraints in a vehicle contribute to the causation of injuries. By observing a series of similar cases, assessments can be made about how well our restraints systems are working toward preventing injury.”

Car manufacturers are able to participate in the case review process, and use findings to guide how the next wave of vehicles are designed.

Data is also combined with other CIREN centers around the country, making it easier and quicker to spot trends in research. The NHTSA will use findings to support rulemaking, and develop test procedures that will lead to safer vehicle regulation.

“Injuries as a result of car accidents are one of the top causes of the trauma we see at Grady,” said Dr. David Wright, professor of emergency medicine at Emory and co-principal investigator of the CIREN award.

The Marcus Trauma Center, Atlanta’s only nationally verified Level 1 trauma center is also the busiest in the state, making its high volume an ideal place to collect data and conduct research.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this type of research which continually improves the safety of our cars, and to be  part of the new CIREN center, which takes the research at Grady to another  level,” said Dr. Peter Rhee, Chief of Surgery at Grady.