Senior Research Fellow, NeuRA
ARC APDI Fellow
NHMRC Career Development Fellow
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, School of Medical Science, UNSW
+612 9399 1632
A/Prof Julie Brown’s (BSc PhD) background in policy development and her research strength is providing translatable injury prevention outcomes. She uses laboratory and field-based studies, as well as data analysis, to investigate injury mechanisms, and the factors important to injury outcome. Since joining NeuRA in 2005, her research focus has been on reducing injury among child occupants, and more recently elderly occupants and other users of the rear seat in motor vehicles.
Head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for children older than one year of age and one of the most common reasons for paediatric presentation to the emergency department. Pedal cyclist incidents alone are responsible for 10% of hospitalisations for head injuries among Australian children. Helmets have been proven to be effective at preventing and reducing the severity of head injuries, however head injury still occurs to approximately 20% of injured child bicyclists despite helmet wearing.
Poor helmet positioning (misuse) undermines the protective benefit and has been observed in up to 85% of child bicyclists. Misuse in children relates to poor helmet fit and comfort stemming from child helmets being designed as scaled down adult helmets and not accounting for variations in head and face shape throughout child development.
We aim to define the head, face and neck shapes of children needed for appropriate helmet shell and retention system design and define the factors for helmet misuse among child bicyclists.
People aged >65 years are up to 9 times more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than younger people. The reason most commonly cited for this is the increased frailty associated with aging leading to a reduced tolerance to crash forces. However other factors may also impact this risk including differences in size and posture affecting the interaction with vehicle safety systems.
Additionally, we recently found that approximately 25% of older occupants use a comfort accessory, such as seat belt padding, seat base cushions, seat back cushions, and back supports when travelling in cars. We are currently studying whether these accessories impact the safety of older occupants in crashes to develop guidelines for their use.
Injury is the leading cause of death and hospitalization among Australian children. Nationally, infants <12 months have the highest rates of death due to injury among all children and an injury hospitalisation rate of 799/100,000 population. Falls represent the leading cause of injury hospitalisations, accounting for almost 50% of hospitalised injury in this age group and an emergency department presentation rate of 3500/100,000. Most falls among these children are from short heights (<1m), and occur in the child’s home. Around 80% of infants <12months admitted to hospital after a fall have sustained a head injury, with approximately 1/3 sustaining traumatic brain injury (TBI). Despite the widespread nature of this problem and the potential for lifelong impact, recent compilation of evidence for effective child injury prevention interventions show there is no evidence, worldwide, for any effective countermeasures. Moreover, there are currently no formal, targeted measures in place to prevent falls in infants <12 months in Australia. There is a global need to identify effective ways to reduce the burden associated with falls among this population.
As a solution, we are developing a digital intervention as a mobile app based on behaviour theory, targeting knowledge, behaviour and home environment of new parents in the first 12 months of a child’s life.
Childhood deaths and injuries due to powered off-road vehicles used for recreation and motor sports are steadily increasing in Australia. Unlike the case for registered vehicles used on public roads, there are no legislative controls restricting the minimum age of use of powered off-road vehicles.
There have been repeated calls to restrict the use of these vehicles based on likely physical, cognitive and perceptual limitations of children as they progress through normal development. Some guidelines suggest children should not use these vehicles until a certain age, while others indicate children of different ages should use specific vehicle types. However, there has been no study of physiological, cognitive and perceptual factors and control of these vehicles by children at different stages of development. There is currently no evidence on which guidelines can be based.
This project aims to:
For more information, visit: https://www.neura.edu.au/clinical-trial/child-development-and-off-road-riding-a-pilot-study/
NeuRA is part of a multi-centre European collaborative project investigating and assessing ways to reduce fatalities and severities of injuries of motorcycles and powered two wheelers (PTWs).
This project aims to develop new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and On-Board Safety Systems, improve validation and assessment methods and increasing the usage rate of such devices. For more information, visit http://pioneers-project.eu/
By 2030 road traffic injuries will be the fifth leading cause of childhood death worldwide, and the seventh leading cause of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)1. The use of restraint systems is an effective measure to prevent serious injury and death among children travelling in cars.2 The risk of death and injury to child passengers is reduced by more than half with optimal child restraint use.2-4 Over the last decades, a number of effective interventions for increasing the use of appropriate restraints have been identified5 including mandating the use of appropriate forms of restraints. However, less is known about how to effectively counter incorrect use of restraints, despite this being a long standing and widespread problem. Reducing incorrect use will lead to substantial casualty reductions in high income countries as well as low to middle income countries9.
Information on how to use a child restraint system correctly is routinely communicated on the labels and instruction manuals accompanying the restraint, and this is inevitably the first point of communication for new restraint users. Child restraint system users frequently report using the instructions and labels accompanying the restraint10-12, and many jurisdictions regulate some of the content and format of these materials through product standards. In a recent Australian survey of 400 parents, 90% reported that they had read the instructions supplied with the restraints13, yet high rates of incorrect use continue. A number of studies have also reported a specific higher likelihood of incorrect use among parents who report using available information on how to correctly use restraints12,14. This suggests instructional materials in their current from may not be effective in communicating how to use restraints correctly, as well as potential inadequacies in requirements covering instructional materials in product standards.
This research study aims to look at the factors that help or hinder proper child car seat use. The purpose of the study is to establish whether supplementary product materials increase the correct use of child car seats among purchasers of new child car seats. For more information, visit: https://www.neura.edu.au/car-seat-study/
This research will provide an evidence-base for countermeasures for injuries to rear seated vehicle occupants. Specifically the results will provide new data on rear seat occupant injuries, key injury mechanisms and how these might vary by age of occupant. This will provide the basis for regulatory or consumer evaluation of the rear seat as it will define the types of injuries and injury mechanisms need to be controlled, and for which occupants. In turn this will lead to enhanced rear seat safety across the Australian vehicle fleet and a corresponding drop in casualty rates for rear seat occupants.
Our study will also enhance the evidence-base relating to the relationship of known crash risk factors such as speed, fatigue and intoxication with crash and injury outcome (in terms of severity). This information will be useful to those setting priority areas for, and designing, road safety campaigns as well as allow for the improvement of current coding schemes used by organizations collecting mass crash statistics such as the Police and NSW Roads and Traffic Authority.
The aim of this project is to identify factors that lead to inappropriate and incorrect child restraint use in children from non English speaking background (NESB) communities. It has been demonstrated that these children are more likely to incorrectly and inappropriately use child restraints, however the reasons for this are unclear. Focus groups have been conducted to understand the factors underlying restraint use within each NESB community, thereby allowing the development of effective interventions for this ‘at risk’ group. The interventions will comprise of education programs designed to increase the rates of correct child restraint practices and will be tailored to the specific needs of each NESB community.
This research is aimed at improving the protection provided to rear seat motor vehicle occupants in crashes. There are two distinct groups of rear seat occupants who have different needs – young children (≤ 8 years) for whom the first step in reducing injury in crashes has been shown to be the correct use of appropriate child-specific add-on restraints and older children and adult occupants, who use the existing restraint system in the vehicle. Our study involves evaluating the effectiveness of new technologies for improving injury outcomes for rear seat occupants, including existing technologies used in the front seat and novel methods for improving rear seat belt and seat fit. Additionally, we are looking to characterise the rates and bio-mechanical mechanisms of the injury to rear seated vehicle occupants (not using child restraints)
Our study has uncovered new data on rear seat occupant injuries, key injury mechanisms and restraint practices. This data will provide the basis for regulatory or consumer evaluation of the rear seat environment and creates an evidence base for countermeasures for injuries to rear seated vehicle occupants that can be implemented in Australia and abroad.
The purpose of this study is to develop effective policies and programs to address the current disproportionate involvement of motorcyclists in serious casualty crashes. There is a need to understand in detail the individual and interactive effects that environmental, vehicle and road user factors have on the involvement and injury outcome of motorcyclists in serious injury crashes.
This study has two distinct aims:
1. To develop an understanding of the influence of the total system, i.e. the rider, the vehicles and the crash
site on the nature and pattern of injuries sustained by seriously injured motorcyclists, and
2. To examine causal relationships between human, vehicle, road and other environmental factors and
motorcyclists involvement in serious injury crashes
In order to meet the objectives and aims of the study, the scope of this work involves the conduct of an in-depth study of motorcyclists who have been seriously injured in a crash on NSW roads with a review of the crashes conducted by our multi-disciplinary review team.
This project aims to investigate the behavioral factors which contribute to the occurrence and severity of injuries to vehicle occupants, and to identify the real costs of these injuries to the community and the individual.
Rather than estimating costs through modeling procedures, actual costs will be obtained from hospital records and follow-up interviews with patients. The information collected in this study will highlight the true cost of road injury and will be invaluable in justifying and prioritizing future road safety initiatives. The information will also contribute to the development of evidence based road safety strategies.
Road traffic crashes for car occupants are a leading cause of death and serious injury in children from high and middle income countries globally. Correct use of appropriate child restraints can significantly reduce death and serious injury but there is a need for well powered trials to examine effectiveness of programs to increase optimal child restraint practices. The aim of this trial is to examine the effectiveness of a comprehensive intervention to increase the use of appropriate child restraints, and decrease incorrect use of child restraints in pre-school aged children traveling in cars.
Our group is studying how injuries occur in children when they are involved in crashes, and how changes to the types and design of restraints used by children can reduce serious injuries and death. Key problems include whether children use restraints correctly and whether they use restraints that are appropriate for their size. Recent findings include that rates of misuse of child restraints are high, and much of this misuse is serious enough to compromise the effectiveness of the restraints in crashes. Building on our recent work that led to major changes in child restraint design and usage laws in Australia, Dr Julie Brown and I are currently studying how restraint ergonomics and comfort affect how children use restraints, and whether we can improve how restraints are labelled to help parents to use them correctly.
BIANCA ALBANESE Research Assistant
CHRIS MULLIGAN Masters Student
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that impact protectors (IP) used in motorcycle clothing can reduce fracture severities. While crash studies have reported IP are associated with reduced likelihood of soft tissue injury, there is little evidence of their effectiveness in reducing fracture likelihood. This discrepancy might be related to IP quality. There are mandatory requirements for IP supplied with protective clothing in Europe, but not elsewhere. This study examines the energy attenuation performance of IP used by Australian riders. The allowable transmitted force of EN 1621-1 may be too high to effectively reduce the probability of impact injury. This is not surprising, given human tolerance levels that are reported in literature. Reducing the force limit below the reported fracture tolerance limits might be difficult with current technology. However, there is scope to reduce the EN 1621-1 maximum limit of 50 kN transmitted force. A reduction in the maximum force limit would improve rider protection and appears feasible, as 77% of tested IP recorded a maximum force <35 kN. This level of transmitted force is estimated to be associated with <20% probability of impact injury. While the performance of IP available to Australian riders is not regulated, most IP was CE marked. The results indicate a significant association between maximum transmitted force, tested according to EN 1621-1 procedures, and impact injury. Further investigation of the EN 1621-1 requirements may be warranted. This work will interest those targeting protective equipment for motorcyclists as a mechanism for reducing injury to these vulnerable road users.