U.Va. Awarded $2.5 Million to Study and Prevent Elderly Drivers' Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries

July 20, 2010 — The University of Virginia and INOVA Fairfax Hospital have received a $2.5 million grant from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to establish a joint Engineering Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network Center. A major initiative for this new CIREN Center will be studying elderly drivers and passengers.

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Marian Anderfuren:

The new center expands upon a highly successful 11-year partnership between U.Va. and INOVA.

Senior driving safety and mobility are among the U.Va. Institute on Aging's most important activities, said Donna Hearn, its executive director. The institute, a University-wide initiative reporting to U.Va.'s vice president for research, serves as a catalyst and coordinator for interdisciplinary research on critical issues for the aging population. This grant continues the institute's efforts to facilitate research that will save lives and promote independent living for America's rapidly growing aging population.

"The CIREN mission – to improve the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of motor vehicle crash injuries to reduce deaths, disabilities and human and economic costs – is of great benefit to society," said Dr. Robert O'Connor, professor and chair of the University's Department of Emergency Medicine.

The center will provide engineering and medical expertise in test subject enrollment, crash investigation, analysis of automobile crash data, impact biomechanics and research and community outreach.

Jeff Crandall, professor of mechanical engineering and principal investigator for the grant, is the director of the University's Center for Applied Biomechanics, a collaborative research facility supported by the schools of Engineering and Applied Science and of Medicine. The center is a recognized authority in research related to crash injuries sustained by older vehicle occupants, occupants involved in frontal, side and rollover crashes and occupants who sustain extremity and thoracic injuries.

Dr. Mark Sochor, associate professor of emergency medicine, will serve as co-principal investigator.

Through the CIREN Center's activities, the Center for Applied Biomechanics will continue its studies on the biomechanics of aging as well as its investigations of future injury trends.

New alliances with AARP and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will expand the research team's expertise and breadth of outreach.

AARP will provide a national outlet for dissemination of CIREN research findings relating to older drivers and passengers and to injury trends. Its outreach potential includes more than 38 million Americans.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will provide both technical support and data for case reviews.

The new U.Va.-INOVA CIREN Center builds upon U.Va.'s biomechanical expertise in injury mechanisms and the success of the current partnership while adding an emphasis on engineering, a revised structure under the leadership of U.Va., and the expertise and outreach provided by new partners.

— By Fariss Samarrai