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UNLV School of Medicine receives $1.1 million to study crash, injury data like never before

Researchers aim to prevent serious injuries
A roadside memorial is set up to remember a life lost at Blue Diamond and Lindell
A roadside memorial is set up to remember a life lost at Blue Diamond and Lindell
Posted at 8:46 PM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-22 02:21:03-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine just received $1.1 million in the form of a multi-year grant to study car crash and injury data to achieve a better understanding of how to prevent serious injuries and death.

The grant comes as Las Vegas has experienced a particularly deadly year on roadways.

On Thursday alone, three people were killed in separate crashes,one in Henderson, another in the northwest valley near Decatur and Ann and another crash at Blue Diamond and Lindell.

Las Vegas Police have been blunt about their feelings on the topic.

"Unfortunately, because of the selfish acts of another person, a family is going to be celebrating these holidays with one empty chair at the table," said Captain Nick Farese with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Traffic Bureau.

Captain Farese was addressing a suspected DUI crash which claimed the 131st road-related fatality on Dec. 15.

"It's a life changer," said Dr. Deborah Kuhls, a trauma surgeon and Medical Director of the Trauma Investive Care Unit at University Medical Center.

Dr. Kuhls is the lead researcher in a study of crash and injury data over the past 12 years across Nevada.

"We followed the patients [progress] into the hospital, in any of the four trauma centers in Nevada, so this is a Nevada-wide grant," explained Dr. Kuhls.

The goal is to go beyond the crash scene and figure out common behaviors, scenarios, and injuries.

The early results are surprising researchers.

Dr. Kuhls points to an alarming finding that 63 percent of bicyclists taken to trauma centers in Nevada were not wearing helmets.

The patients usually sustained substantial head injuries.

"Often times [the patients] don't realize, what they think is a small behavior puts themselves at risk," said Dr. Kuhls.

The early research also shows the enormous economic impact of a crash.

For example, patients who survived a crash by running off a roadway suffered $23,000 more in hospital expenses for their injuries, according to Kuhls.

Dr. Kuhls said the goal is prevention and reinforcing education.

"Things that we looked at being really small behavior changes can literally mean the difference between life and death," said Kuhls.

The findings are also used to craft legislation at the state level to help address prevention.

The research findings are released quarterly in the newsletter which can be requested by sending an email.

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