Nevada Department of Public Safety - Office of Traffic Safety awards grant to University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Risk Taking Behaviors and Vehicular Crashes: Identifying behaviors and interventions

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Nevada Department of Public Safety - Office of Traffic Safety awarded a grant for $229,291 to Deborah A. Kuhls, M.D., FACS, FCCM (principal investigator) and Laura Gryder, MA (co-investigator), both with the Center for Traffic Safety Research at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, for the 2016-2017 grant year to continue maintaining the previously-established database.

In order to obtain an overall understanding of traffic-related injuries and fatalities, along with behavioral factors that may relate to crash incidents, multiple sources of data that exist in standalone systems need to be considered. Without a singular system that can integrate these sources of data, officials can only partially quantify the potential causes and contributing factors as well as total impact of vehicular crashes in Nevada.

The Center for Traffic Safety Research, a part of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, has created such a linked database using 2005-2013 NDOT crash records and statewide Nevada trauma records which has been a valuable resource of hard medical cost data and outcomes for all vehicular injuries that are treated in the statewide trauma system.

This grant will support adding 2015 data to provide a more comprehensive database to develop statistical modeling to identify predictive and protective factors for traffic-related injuries.

"We have been able to quantify the incremental injury severity and cost of care related to behaviors such as drinking and drug use while driving, helmeted versus un-helmeted moped and scooter drivers, and impairment and improper crossing among pedestrians," explained Kuhls. "We are further able to examine associations among multiple risk taking behaviors such as the impact of teen seatbelt use likelihood and resulting injuries."

Despite local and statewide traffic safety campaigns, the number of traffic-related fatalities in the State of Nevada has steadily risen since late 2009. From 2014 to 2015, frequency of crashes increased by 10.8 percent, and alcohol-related crashes by 23.9 percent. Number of fatalities from 2014 to 2015 have increased by 12 percent. These fatalities can be further subdivided by type: alcohol-related (22.5 percent increase), vehicle occupant (26.5 percent increase), pedestrian (1.4 percent increase), and bicyclist (25 percent increase). Such information demonstrates that much progress is still needed to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries in Nevada.

Using the 2005-2013 linked data, the Center of Traffic Safety Research has shown that at Nevada trauma centers, a much higher percentage of in-hospital traffic fatalities resulted from pedestrian crashes (7.8 percent), followed by motorcycle crashes (4.5 percent) and motor vehicle crashes (2.8 percent). Uninsured traffic crash victims admitted to a trauma center accounted for an average of $35,366,673 annually from 2005 to 2013.

"This burden of uncompensated hospitalization is largely carried by taxpayers and the state of Nevada," Kuhls said.

Findings such as these generated from research of the database are communicated via TREND newsletters, available in English and Spanish, with the expectation of promoting safety efforts for at-risk populations as well as discouraging the public from engaging in risk-taking behaviors and to tailor preventative programs accordingly.

"By conducting research using our linked database, we can continue to provide essential information to legislative, community, and state organizations as well as to individuals. This research can further help us and others to develop the most appropriate, targeted interventions to make the largest possible impact on our state," Gryder said.

In preparation for local and state legislative initiatives, the Center for Traffic Safety Research plans evidence-based reviews to support legislative initiatives that will decrease vehicular morbidity and mortality. This information will be shared with partner organizations to help focus prevention and other activities. For more information, visit the Center for Traffic Safety Research website.

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Contact

Julie Ardito
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006
jardito@med.unr.edu

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision that has served Nevada for more than 48 years as its first public medical school. UNR Med's vision is a healthy Nevada, supported by our mission: establishing excellence in medical education, medical care, research and community engagement, while committing to a culture of respect, compassion and inclusion. Through targeted growth and investment in research, clinical services, education and outreach, UNR Med is a resource for improving healthcare regionally and across the country. For more information, visit: med.unr.edu.