Road and transportation safety is the focus of a new research facility incorporating a nationwide database of accidents and injuries to make cars and roads safer.

The hi tech database is already helping researchers look into accident prevention and how it impacts on public health and the economy.

"Mounting traffic accidents constitute a major concern for the nation and the facility will provide invaluable help in finding a solution to the problem," said Dr Yasser E. Hawas, director of the Roadway, Transportation and Traffic Safety Research Centre (RTTSRC).

The centre, located at Al Ain Hospital, was launched by the Research Affairs Section of UAE University. "The database is our first venture in the centre that enjoys the support of several UAE and foreign institutions and expertise," he said.

The RTTSRC will gradually expand its activities as it has other plans to develop, select and transfer suitable technologies for roads and transportation safety by working with all those sectors and organisations that can contribute to a reduction in accidents.

The most important task is to establish reliable data on the number and types of accidents that lead to injury and death on the UAE's roads, said the director, adding that the centre would also be providing technical, academic and practical consultations and services based on the database.

The centre has been operating in partnership with Al Ain Municipality and Town Planning Department, Abu Dhabi Municipality and Town Planning Department, Abu Dhabi General Authority for Health Services and the General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police at the Interior Ministry.

Analysts will study different makes of cars to see which ones are safer. Dr Hawas said the first phase of operation focuses on accidents involving vehicles made by General Motors.

The centre will soon expand its tests to incorporate other vehicle makes. Extensive data will be collected from the scene of the crash as well as the extent of damage to the vehicles and the injuries of those involved. "This will be developed for statistical analysis."

Monash University in Melbourne, which has also been running a similar research centre for the past 20 years, has been helping the RTTSRC build the database under an agreement signed with UAE University in March.

Dr Hawas said that scientists will recreate a series of crashes using simulation models. The understanding of the dynamics of the vehicle crash, in combination with the injuries sustained by the occupants, will help GM vehicle designers assess how vehicles could be safer.