Study on Crash Data from OnStar Could Help in Development of Safer Vehicles

General Motors (GM), OnStar and the University of Michigan Medical School are working together to collect crash and injury data that could lead to engineering safer cars and trucks and getting the right kind of help to a crash scene.

The Advanced Automotive Safety Research Study, which began in September, asks people involved in certain kinds of crashes -- whether or not they were injured -- to confidentially share their personal medical records with safety researchers trying to understand how well restraint systems can mitigate crash injuries.

"There is enormous life-saving potential in what we could learn from having real injury data that we can compare with data from a real-world crash," said Beth Lowery, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy. "This is an example of GM's commitment to continuous safety before, during and after a crash."

First responders will be able to get to the scene of a crash armed with information about the pattern and severity of injuries to expect in certain types of crashes, said Dr. Stewart Wang, professor of surgery and director of the University of Michigan Program for Injury Research and Education.

OnStar's Advanced Automatic Crash Notification (AACN) is a key enabler. AACN data is transmitted to an OnStar advisor in severe crashes regardless of whether an air bag is deployed and can help improve the understanding of crashes.

AACN technology also transmits to the OnStar Advisor whether the crashed vehicle rolled over, whether there was more than one impact and where on the vehicle the impact(s) occurred. AACN debuted on the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu and is available on 90 percent of 2008 model year GM vehicles.

"By inspecting the data, we can look for specific collision types and use real-time data about collision dynamics to begin to understand occupant injury and examine improvements in the prevention and treatment of collision-related injuries," said Bob Lange, GM executive director of structure and safety integration.

One focus of the study will be on rollover crashes and specifically how well rollover-capable side curtain air bags performed. Rollovers account for only about 3 percent of all roadway crashes, but they were responsible for nearly a third of all highway deaths, 10,816 in 2005.

GM in 2006 opened the first manufacturer-owned rollover crash-testing facility, where efforts are aimed at improving air bag sensing - when a rollover-enabled air bag should and should not deploy -- and at learning better ways to contain occupants during rollovers.

"I feel very strongly that this study has tremendous potential to hasten improvements in vehicle safety and to improve post-crash rescue and medical care," Wang said. "There is no question that we can save lives and reduce injuries in the future."

Dr. Stewart Wang: http://surgery.med.umich.edu/general/clinical/faculty/stewartw.shtml

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