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Transportation & Vehicle Safety Policy

Crash Scene Photos to Help ER Staff Assess Incoming Injuries

Severely damaged car on roadside with ambulance

A new Human Factors research project will attempt to save lives by training Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel to take photos of crashed vehicles and send them to hospital emergency personnel within 30 seconds. Researchers will also train ER staff to interpret likely injuries based on the angle of impact and 'crush' (how much the vehicle is crumpled) imagery.

ER staff generally receive little warning about the arrival of crash victims, and may not have time to exchange much information with first responders. Being able to predict that a patient has a high probability of having sustained pelvic fracture due to a photo showing a severe low side impact will save time in a situation where every second is crucial.

Daniel McGehee, Director of the PPC Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Program is the principal investigator on the project. He will collaborate with:

  • Nate Scadlock, a trauma nurse in the Department of Emergency Medicine and doctoral student in the UI College of Nursing,
  • Dr. Chris Buresh, associate professor of emergency medicine at the UI Carver College of Medicine and medical director of the Keokuk County ambulance service,
  • Corrine Peek-Asa, professor of occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health and director of the Centers for Disease Control-funded UI Injury Prevention Research Center,
  • Robert Kaufman, an automotive traumatologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, and
  • Denise Szecsei, a computer scientist and app developer at ModNA R design firm and lecturer in iPhone app development in the Department of Computer Science, UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Media Appearances:
McGehee was featured on Iowa Public Radio's talk show program, "River to River" with host Ben Kieffer to discuss this recent development on Friday, October 19. Listen to his interview with Kieffer here. McGehee was also featured on NPR's "All Tech Considered" on November 11. McGehee and Scadlock were also featured on KGAN on Thursday, October 25. Watch the video here.