Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Joins National Effort to Learn More about Injuries from Car Crashes

December 20, 2005

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The eighth national Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) center has opened at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. This collaboration of physicians and biomechanical engineers from academia and industry was formed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to learn more about injuries from motor vehicle accidents in hopes of improving safety and reducing deaths and disability.

The Toyota-Wake Forest University School of Medicine CIREN Center is sponsored by Toyota Motor North America. The network’s centers are funded either by NHTSA or by CIREN members from the automobile industry.

The Medical Center, one of eight trauma centers nationwide included in CIREN, is verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level-1 center for both adult and pediatric trauma.

“CIREN is a unique resource that allows detailed analysis of crashes and the injuries they cause,” said Wayne Meredith, M.D., principal investigator of the local CIREN center. “It is a brilliant concept that provides information to help auto makers and government agencies improve safety.”

Meredith, a fellow in the American College of Surgeons and director of the Division of Surgical Sciences, has been a trauma surgeon for more than 18 years. He said the local CIREN center is a collaboration of Toyota Motor North America, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering & Sciences, which is operated by Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"Achieving optimum safety involves the development and verification of safety technologies based on investigations and analyses of the various types of accidents that are actually occurring in society,” said Christopher Tinto, vice president, Toyota Motor North America. “The CIREN partnership is well-positioned to supply important data and detailed medical information that may help automotive engineers better understand traffic casualties to continue enhancing the safety of its vehicles."

Wake Forest Baptist’s trauma center serves about 26 counties in the Piedmont and western North Carolina. The area has nearly 20,000 motor vehicle crashes each year that result in about $1.6 billion in medical costs. About 2,300 adults and 600 children are admitted to the hospital with trauma injuries each year – with about half involving motor vehicle accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the area’s mortality rate from motor vehicle accidents is in the top 25 percent in the nation, primarily because of the large number of non-interstate primary and secondary roads.

The CIREN network reconstructs crashes to determine the cause of trauma injuries and maintains the results in a database. The database has recently been improved to include information about the biomechanical causes of injuries. Engineers from the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering & Sciences will help contribute this information, which is needed by regulatory agencies and automobile manufacturers to improve safety.

“The local CIREN center is a manifestation of the enthusiasm of Wake Forest and Virginia Tech to work together to improve automobile safety,” said Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., co-principal investigator. “CIREN is unique in obtaining more detailed data about the nature of injury from crashes than any other source, and makes a connection in auto safety between doctors and engineers. It is a superb tool to understand injury biomechanics.”

Stitzel is technical director of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University Center for Injury Biomechanics, a part of the engineering school that conducts research in automobile safety and biomechanics. The research has improved the understanding of chest, head, pelvic, and extremity injuries, and also led to new information about how to protect pregnant women.


Media Contacts:
Wake Forest -- Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, at 336-716-4587.
Toyota: Martha Voss, Martha_voss@toyota.com, at 202-258-6443

The Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) is a multi-center research program established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1996 to obtain more detailed data about the nature of serious injuries sustained in automobile crashes. CIREN’s participants are pursuing in-depth studies of crashes, injuries, and treatments. The group’s mission is to improve the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of motor vehicle crash injuries to reduce deaths, disabilities and human and economic costs.

Toyota established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates eight manufacturing plants here, with two more under construction. There are more than 1,400 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealerships in the U.S. which sell more than 2 million vehicles a year. Toyota has a direct U.S. investment of more than $13 billion and employs more than 31,000 people. Toyota takes a comprehensive approach in implementing actions related to vehicles, people, and the traffic environment as a single entity, in the ultimate hope of the complete elimination of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has a strong history of automotive safety and injury biomechanics research. Since 1990, Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech have operated a biomedical engineering program to combine medical and engineering expertise into student training. In 2002, the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering Sciences (SBES) was established.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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