Children's Hospital of Philadelphia refocuses its center for injury research

The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has been studying teen driving with financial support from State Farm Insurance Co., will lay off six employees April 1 because of a shift in emphasis away from basic research and toward creating interventions that make teens safer drivers.

Hospital spokeswoman Dana Mortensen said the laid-off workers will be able to apply for other jobs at CHOP. The center, which has advocated for tougher restrictions on new drivers, currently has 40 employees.

State Farm has sponsored research at CHOP for 13 years. The insurer and hospital are on the verge of signing a new, three-year $4.5 million agreement, Mortensen said. Neither she nor a State Farm spokesman would say how much the insurer was contributing before, but she said State Farm has provided "tens of millions of dollars" over the last 13 years.

CHOP has interviewed almost 6,000 teenagers across the country about their attitudes toward driving. It also has studied the circumstances surrounding crashes involving teen drivers. One conclusion: It's good to limit teen passengers when drivers are inexperienced.

The hospital and State Farm will now focus on "developing a tool to get into the hands of parents to help them teach their kids to drive," Mortensen said. She declined to say what form that tool would take, saying that that is "proprietary" information.

Phil Supple, a State Farm spokesman, said the company will be spending as much or more next year on teen driving as it did this year. The tool under development likely will be available only to the company's subscribers. State Farm insures 42 million cars in about 27 million households.