A research programme by Australia's Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) investigating vehicle crash and injury risk for local General Motors operation Holden is being expanded into the Middle East.

In an historic agreement Monash University, a world leader in road safety research and initiatives, is assisting the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) to establish the UAE Research Centre for Transportation and Traffic Safety at its main campus in Al Ain.

Monash deputy vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Parker, Professor Brian Fildes, chair of road safety at MUARC and Dr Laurie Sparke, chief engineer Holden Innovation, travelled to the UAE for the 15 March signing of the historic Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE University.

After a successful 10-year relationship with Holden in Australia, MUARC will now carry out car accident investigations involving Holden vehicles exported to the United Arab Emirates and sold locally as Chevrolet models. Parker said he hoped MUARC and its collaboration with Holden would contribute to road safety in the UAE in the same way it had done in Australia.

Fildes said the most important initial task was to establish reliable data on the number and types of crashes that led to injuries and death on UAE roads.

"There is a high accident rate, and crashes tend to be severe and often related to fatigue, speeding and road hazards such as animals - however, accurate data collection is a vital starting point," he said.

Sparke said MUARC's research in the UAE would provide valuable assessment of the occupant protection of Commodore based-models exported to the Middle East.

"Holden focuses its design on providing the best protection and driving safety, based on MUARC research to develop optimum occupant protection for our customers," Sparke said. "Last year Holden sent more than 22,000 cars to the Middle East. As Holden's largest export market it is important that we evaluate the safety performance of our vehicles in this environment."

Fildes said MUARC would assist the UAEU set up the cross-faculty research institute, provide training for investigators, supply equipment for conducting crash inspections, and monitor the process and quality of the data received. He said the concept for the institute developed as a result of his discussions and visits to the UAE over several years to promote the possibility of establishing a research centre with links to Monash.