Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Child Safety Research at CIRP

The Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) believes a multidisciplinary approach, involving several scientific disciplines working collaboratively, is best when trying to prevent or promote recovery from childhood injury. CIRP's child safety research team is composed of professionals from the fields of emergency medicine; pediatric trauma; pediatric and adolescent development; nursing; epidemiology and biostatistics; biomechanical and computational engineering; psychology; behavioral science; urban planning; communications; and health education.

The CIRP team collaborates to study injury topics comprehensively and to provide evidence-based, actionable solutions for parents, educators, industry, government, and other stakeholders.

Catherine McDonald, PhD, RN, FAAN and Chelsea Ward McIntosh, MS use the CIRP fixed-base driving simulator for teen driver safety research studies.

CIRP Research by Scientific Discipline/Method

  • Behavioral Science
    The Center’s behavioral scientists researchers study how human behavior before an injury occurs can increase or decrease the risk of that injury, and then develop interventions that promote safety and help to prevent injury. Researchers also study the emotional and psychological response to potentially traumatic events, such as injury, for children and their family members.
  • Biomedical Engineering
    Field investigation of real world child injury events fuels the Center’s biomedical child safety research. Our laboratory research on the mechanics of injury and the unique kinematics of children is helping to fill gaps in quantitative data on the physical response of children to trauma.
  • Computational Engineering
    The Center’s computational engineering research focuses on understanding complex physical and biological systems and their behaviors using an array of finite element models and rigid body models of the human body, ATDs, and vehicles. Using mathematical analysis, modeling and simulations, the computational engineers' research approach complements traditional laboratory-based research methods.
  • Digital Health
    CIRP researchers are taking a systematic approach to conduct and foster effective, evidence-based health intervention development and evaluation using the digital health method. 
  • Epidemiology
    CIRP’s epidemiological research focuses on identifying populations that are at particularly high risk for injury and determining individual-level, environmental, and social causes underlying these risks.
  • Human Factors
    At CIRP, human factors research has examined behaviors, emotions, beliefs, and preferences of young drivers. The CIRP research team is also applying human factors to investigate the safety of children in self-driving vehicles.

Child Safety Research Tools and Data Resources

CIRP has developed a variety of tools and data resources for researchers, utilizing our interdisciplinary approach to child injury prevention science. These survey instruments and data resources have been used in the areas of child occupant protection, concussion, and teen driving.

Research by Child and Adolescent Safety Priority

  • Child Occupant Protection
    Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury for all children. Because children are not simply "small adults," there is a need for research into age-appropriate child restraint systems, vehicle designs for optimal child protection, and best practices for child passenger safety.
  • Concussion and Head Injury
    In collaboration with CHOP's Sports Medicine and Performance Center, CIRP is building a broad portfolio of concussion research to advance the field’s understanding of child and youth concussion and to fill in gaps in knowledge that hinder development of better prevention and treatment strategies. The team aims to advance targeted interventions to prevent concussion and optimize treatment to accelerate recovery.
  • Crash Avoidance and Autonomous Vehicles
    Self-driving and highly autonomous vehicles are widely anticipated to be the future of automotive safety. The CIRP research team focuses on a particularly vulnerable population – teen drivers – and how they interact with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems when behind the wheel, utilizing CIRP’s driving simulator, data analysis of the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHPR2) Naturalistic Driving Study, and focus groups and national surveys.
  • Safe Mobility
    In collaboration with Penn Mobility 21, CIRP explores smart city technologies; connected and autonomous vehicles; improved transportation access to disadvantaged neighborhoods; multi-modal traveling; assistive technologies for people with disabilities; data modeling for monitoring traffic control system; and regional planning to establish priorities and aid transportation deployment.
  • Teen Driving Safety
    The CIRP team is working to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes involving teens behind the wheel by employing comprehensive, rigorous methods to both analyze factors associated with teen crashes and to develop interventions targeting teen drivers' skill acquisition and training, compliance with and enforcement of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions and improving teen driving behaviors.
  • Traumatic Stress
    CIRP scientists are working to understand children's physical and emotional recovery after injury and to improve models of post-injury care. Current research in this area focuses on understanding long-term physical and functional recovery after injury; learning more about how children and parents cope with injury; disseminating web-based interventions for parents and clinicians; and developing web-based interventions for children.
  • Violence Prevention
    CIRP is working to prevent violent injury through the Violence Prevention Initiative, an evidence-based effort to protect youth from violence. The program strives to reduce the incidence and impact of aggression on children and families in our community through research-based educational programming in schools and the community, screening for risk in clinical settings, and direct casework with injured youth and their family members.

Learn about the science behind the research on the Injury Research In Action YouTube Channel