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Grant to help UNLV medical school study traffic-related injuries

The UNLV School of Medicine Department of Surgery has been awarded a $234,443 grant from the Nevada Department of Public Safety to continue its work toward understanding and preventing traffic-related injuries and fatalities in Nevada.

Dr. Deborah Kuhls, professor of surgery, and co-investigator Laura Gryder have created a linked database using 2005-2015 Nevada Department of Transportation crash data and statewide trauma center injury and medical data.

“This data allows us to examine crashes and risk-taking behaviors in relation to hard medical costs and outcomes,” Kuhls said in an announcement Wednesday. “The grant money will support adding 2016 and 2017 data to the database, so we will have 13 years of crash and injury data in one place.”

Data from this grant-funded study are used to support safety-related legislation.

The findings include:

■ Teen motor vehicle occupants: Analysis from this database shows rear-seated teen passengers have 70 percent higher odds of not wearing seatbelts. After a crash, they have higher accrued hospital charges, spend more days in the hospital, and more days in the ICU.

■ Moped and scooters: With this mode of transportation rising in popularity, the linked crash-trauma data from years 2012-2014 reveals that average hospital charges for a moped crash are $8,120 more for riders who don’t wear helmets compared to helmeted riders. After injuries to the extremities, the second most common area of injury for those not wearing helmets were those suffered to the head and neck. Currently, moped riders are not required to wear a helmet while driving in Nevada.

■ Pedestrian crashes: Data analyses show that 29 percent of pedestrian crash patients brought to a Nevada trauma center were crossing the street improperly. They spent more days in the hospital and accrued significantly higher median hospital costs ($113,475 vs. $52,727) compared to pedestrians who were injured while crossing properly. “Las Vegas is always in the top 20 most dangerous U.S. cities for pedestrian deaths and we need to identify prevention strategies that work,” Kuhls said.

The grant will fund evaluation of pedestrian education to determine how likely education will result in pedestrians crossing properly in the future.

In Nevada, deaths and injuries from vehicle-related crashes have risen steadily since late 2009.

UNLV School of Medicine researchers say the highest percentage of traffic fatalities for those admitted to a Nevada trauma center between 2005-2015 were from pedestrian crashes (7.5 percent), followed by motorcycle crashes (4.3 percent) and motor vehicle crashes (2.6 percent).

“By conducting this research, we can continue to provide essential information to legislative, community, and state organizations,” Gryder said. “ We can use the data to develop the most appropriate, targeted injury prevention interventions to make the largest possible impact on the lives of citizens of our state.”

Studies of importance to Nevadans are published quarterly in Nevada’s traffic research and education newsletter, TREND. The newsletter, free of charge to members of the community, can be accessed by emailing a request to laura.gryder@unlv.edu

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