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Simple solutions can save the lives of children in car accidents

How safe are children when a catastrophic motor vehicle crash occurs? The answer may depend on where you live.

A joint study conducted by Harvard and UT Southwestern Medical Center analyzed state-level trends where children died in motor vehicle crashes. The research factored differences in both geography and individual state laws.

Fatal motor vehicle accidents nationwide took the lives of 2,885 children under 15 between 2010 and 2014, representing 16 percent of all deadly wrecks. Per 100,000 children annually, it represents a mortality rate of .94.

A breakdown of those accidents reveals:

  • Thirteen percent of children were sitting in front seats while 23 percent in back seats were unrestrained or improperly restrained
  • Driving on rural roads accounted for 62 percent of crashes with 35 percent on state highways
  • Vans and minivans accounted for the smallest number of deaths
  • Most crashes happened while the vehicle was traveling 45 to 60 miles per hour
  • Nine percent of drivers were operating cars while impaired

While the number of these child-related auto fatalities varied widely by state, a troubling concentration of these deaths occurred in the South. It is a region already linked to improper/unused restraints and many accidents occurring on rural roads.

In the South, 1,550 children died in fatal wrecks, representing a mortality rate of 1.34 per 100 annually.

Additional data in all regions shows the following

  • Northeast – The safest area of the country had 189 child fatalities with a mortality rate of 0.38 per 100,000
  • Midwest – 585 child fatalities with a mortality rate of .89 per 100,000
  • West – 561 child fatalities with a mortality rate of 0.76 per 100,000

State laws and regulations and consistent enforcement played a critical role in preventing children from dying in car accidents. Researchers recommended that revising weak regulations and improving enforcement would have a significant effect on saving lives.

Parents can also make one simple choice. Have cars with working seatbelts and actively use those restraints. The analysis shows even a 10 percent increase would reduce fatalities by more than 230 children annually and 1,100 over five years. That number is equal to 40 percent of the deaths during the four years studied.

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