Health Experts Link Automotive Technology To Life-Saving Crash Response

ATLANTA – A panel of 20 public health, safety and automotive experts has concluded that expanded use of data from Advanced Automatic Collision Notification (AACN) systems – such as OnStar and ATX – could help save lives following vehicle collisions. The expert panel, convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was made possible by a grant to the CDC Foundation from OnStar and the GM Foundation. AACN systems are now installed in approximately 5 million vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. The panel's recommendations are released today in a report titled, Recommendations from the Expert Panel: Advanced Automatic Collision Notification and Triage of the Injured Patient.

Panel experts agree that data from AACN systems should be used to help determine the severity of car crash victims' injuries and to guide emergency responders in transporting them to the most appropriate treatment facility. These recommendations build on a CDC report released in January that emphasizes the importance of using field triage (decision-making at the crash site) to ensure that victims with severe injuries are taken to trauma centers with the appropriate expertise and equipment to treat them. In fact, immediately transporting a severely injured patient to a Level I trauma center, as opposed to a nontrauma center, can decrease his or her risk of death by 25 percent.

The report released today goes a step further to recommend that AACN data – including telematics automatically transmitted by the vehicle, such as crash severity, airbag deployment, multiple impacts and vehicle type, as well as information communicated verbally to the system operator by crash victims, such as the age and responsiveness of vehicle occupants – be incorporated into field triage protocols.

"When emergency responders have access to data from AACN systems, they can better assess the probability that a person's injuries are severe enough to warrant immediate transport to a trauma center," says Richard C. Hunt, M.D., director of CDC's Division of Injury Response, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "If their injuries are determined to be less severe, the patient can instead be transported to the nearest emergency department – a triage decision which reduces costs and reserves trauma center availability for the severely injured."

The panel also developed a recommended protocol for AACN providers that outlines when, based on vehicle crash data, an operator should ask vehicle occupants for additional information; what questions the operator should ask; and what relevant data, if any, the operator should relay directly to local 911 call centers. Panel experts hope to conduct pilot studies in the field with AACN operators, 911 call centers and emergency responders to test the protocol in the near future.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Conducting future studies to determine whether AACN data can be used to assess the probability of traumatic brain injury; and
  • Creating a national system to collect and analyze AACN and injury data that could be integrated into current national data systems, such as the National Accident Sampling System, the National Emergency Medical Services Information System and the National Trauma Data Bank.

"OnStar's Automatic Crash Response data complements the CDC's field triage protocol, which we believe will help improve our national emergency response system," said Chet Huber, president, OnStar. "It is now up to us to put the findings of the panel into practical use to benefit our subscribers. We look forward to continuing our work with the CDC in the additional pilot studies."

The expert panel included representation from CDC and other public health agencies, 911 call centers, EMS, emergency medicine, trauma surgery, engineering, AACN providers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Health Resources and Services Administration's EMS for Children program. The project is one example of the CDC Foundation's many programs that foster collaboration between CDC and private-sector partners with shared public health goals.

"For CDC, building alliances with private sector partners is often critical to moving important work forward. That's why the CDC Foundation exists," says Charles Stokes, CDC Foundation president and CEO. "We bring CDC together with organizations interested in the same public health issues, then facilitate and implement meaningful programs to achieve common goals. After 14 years of bringing organizations together, we've learned that public-private partnerships really are the best of both worlds."

Download the full report, Recommendations from the Expert Panel: Advanced Automatic Collision Notification and Triage of the Injured Patient, online: For more information on CDC's efforts to help EMS providers make on-scene triage decisions that can help save lives, visit:


Established by Congress, the CDC Foundation helps CDC do more, faster, by forging effective partnerships between CDC and corporations, foundations, organizations and individuals to fight threats to health and safety. The Foundation currently manages approximately 200 programs in the United States and in countries around the world. Each of our programs involves a talented team of experts at CDC and at least one outside funding partner.