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NEWS
The National Academies Awards Two Grants Totaling $1.5 Million
December 8, 2010

The National Academies has awarded the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Injury Biomechanics two research grants totaling $1.5 million. These grants are to fund in-depth investigations of serious and fatal road departure crashes to identify the crash and injury causation mechanisms associated with these traumatic events.


Carolyn Hampton of Elsinboro, N.J., a doctoral student in biomedical engineering who works with the Center for Injury Biomechancis, and Clay Gabler, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, analyze a light truck impact into a guardrail system.

Clay Gabler, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, will lead both research programs. The first grant is for a four-year large-scale study of crashes and injuries from accidents involving passenger vehicles. The second grant is for a two-year study that will focus on the specific characteristics of serious and fatal injuries from motorcycle crashes into traffic barriers.

The reasons that road departure crashes so often lead to fatality or injury are complex and not completely understood. For the passenger vehicle study, the Center for Injury Biomechanics will conduct in-depth investigations of 1,000 road departure crashes at 24 sites across the U.S. Prof. Gabler’s team will partner with Calspan Corporation, KLD Associates, and the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. “The study promises to provide fundamental new insights into the crash conditions associated with road departures, such as impact speed, impact angles, vehicle road departure orientations, encroachment frequencies, and roadside topography, to reduce the severity and frequency of roadside crashes,” said Prof. Gabler. The study will couple these crash causation factors with complete injury information for each of the crash victims to identify the influence of infrastructure design on injury outcomes.

The second study focuses on motorcycle-traffic barrier crashes. Unlike passenger vehicle occupants, motorcycle riders have neither the protective structural cage nor the advanced restraints that are commonplace in cars and light trucks. Motorcyclists now account for nearly half of all deaths in guardrail collisions, surpassing every vehicle type including cars and SUVs. Prof. Gabler will partner with Joel Stitzel Jr., Wake Forest University director of the Center for Injury Biomechancis, to conduct motorcycle crash investigations in North Carolina. Other partners include Bucknell University and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Center for Injury Biomechancis, established in spring 2009, combines the institute’s auto safety expertise with the center’s injury biomechanics expertise. The Center for Injury Biomechancis was established at Virginia Tech in 2000.


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