Crash Response Crash Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Advances in Motor Vehicle Crash Response

A trauma center is a type of hospital that has resources and equipment needed to help care for severely injured patients. The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma classifies trauma centers as Level I to Level IV. A Level I trauma center provides the highest level of trauma care while Level IV trauma centers provide initial trauma care and transfer to a higher level of trauma care if necessary.

CDC’s Division of Injury Response and the CDC Foundation, in partnership with the GM Foundation and OnStar, recently released a report titled: Recommendations from the Expert Panel: Advanced Automatic Collision Notification and Triage of the Injured Patient.

Deciding whether a victim of a vehicle crash requires care at a trauma center is a life or death decision for emergency medical responders. Research, supported by CDC Injury Center, reinforces the importance of this decision. The findings show that care at a Level I trauma center lowers the risk of death by 25% for severely injured patients, compared with treatment received at a hospital without trauma care services.

To develop procedures that will help emergency medical responders better and more quickly determine if a motorist needs care at a trauma center after a vehicle crash, CDC Injury Center and the CDC Foundation recently partnered with OnStar and the GM Foundation. Through this partnership, CDC Injury Center conducted a vehicle telematics initiative to develop evidence-based protocols for the emergency medical community to effectively use automotive telemetry data. By enabling responders to more quickly identify, diagnose, and treat injuries, these data will help to reduce death and injuries among vehicle crash victims.

With this in mind, CDC convened a multidisciplinary panel of experts, which included representatives from federal agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Health Resources Services Administration, as well as leaders in public health, emergency medical services, emergency medicine, trauma surgery, and vehicle and public safety.

The key finding from the expert panel is that—Advanced Automatic Collision Notification systems show promise in saving lives.

Essentially, the panel determined that AACN systems can help in two key ways:

First, AACN can help predict the severity of injuries. This information is key in determining what resources are needed and deciding where to transport people who are injured. Second, AACN communication and vehicle locating or GPS capabilities can help EMS providers find crashes faster, which may be especially important in rural or isolated areas.

Based on these findings, the panel also recommended:

that seatbelt use be added to current AACN response systems; that AACN be considered to help in early identification of traumatic brain injuries; establishing real-time communications of AACN information to emergency responders; research to measure effectiveness of the newly developed AACN protocol in the report; adding information available from AACN systems into existing field triage protocols, such as the Field Triage Decision Scheme; and adding AACN data to current national data systems about injury.

AACN is an example of how existing information technology can be used to improve current systems for emergency care. We will continue to build upon scientific knowledge and apply it to put life-saving tools in place so that all Americans can live to their full potential.