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Emory and Grady awarded $4.4 million to study Atlanta car crashes

December 15, 2022

The Injury Prevention Research Center at Emory University (IPRCE), Grady Health System and collaborators at the University of Michigan have been awarded a five-year, $4.4 million project to continue studying motor vehicle crashes in metro-Atlanta that result in injuries treated at Grady. This project, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is the next phase of research on motor-vehicle crashes and will expand the team’s focus to include pedestrian crashes.

The team’s previous car crash research began in 2017 and focused on injuries to vehicle occupants and how to improve driver and passenger safety. The latest award supports Emory and Grady’s continued role as a Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) Center, and will also study crashes where vehicles strike pedestrians.

“By using data from CIREN centers, NHTSA can identify ways to make vehicles safer for both occupants and pedestrians,” says Jonathan Rupp, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory and principal investigator of the Emory and Grady CIREN Center. “CIREN centers collect highly detailed data on the performance of vehicles and the injuries to the case occupant or pedestrian in crashes.”

CIREN centers are one of NHTSA’s major data collection systems examining motor vehicle crashes. There are six other CIREN Centers in the United States, with a goal of improving vehicle safety and supporting injury prevention.

When a car crash occurs, seriously injured pedestrians or vehicle occupants who are treated at Grady will be invited to participate in the study. Emory and Grady’s CIREN Center will then send expert crash investigators into the field to measure the damage to the interior and exterior of the vehicle, download the event data recorder and document the scene of the crash. In parallel, the team will record detailed injury information that will eventually be matched to specific vehicle damage. The data will be reviewed with other CIREN centers and NHTSA to help inform future research and testing aimed at improving safety and reducing serious injury in crashes.

“CIREN data also play a key role in understanding why crashes occur. This helps us to help prevent future crashes,” says Rupp. “Our team works to understand the role of driver and pedestrian behavior in causing a crash. With this information, we can identify roadway and vehicle safety improvements that could have prevented the crash.”

“CIREN relies on high-volume trauma centers like Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center to conduct research on injuries following car crashes,” says Elizabeth Benjamin, MD, PhD, a professor of surgery at Emory and trauma medical director at Grady Health System. “Participants will be enrolled in the study after arriving at Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center, which is the only Level I trauma center in Atlanta and one of the busiest in the United States. This CIREN award would not have been possible without the strong, collaborative relationship between Emory and Grady.”

“This award reflects the national prominence of Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center and the expertise of the team working on this project,” says David Wright, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the CIREN award. “A multi-disciplinary team of collaborators in emergency medicine, trauma surgery, radiology and other areas will spend the next five years collecting and analyzing data to better understand the mechanisms of injuries from automobiles to both occupants and pedestrians,” Wright explains.

University of Michigan sub-contractors will assist with data analysis, while also using computational human body models to reconstruct crashes to better understand how serious injuries occur.

Grady Health System and NHTSA