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Misuse of Restraints, State Policies Major Causes of Pediatric Deaths in the United States

The Journal of Pediatrics recently published a study looking into deaths of children under the age of 15 caused by motor vehicle accidents where they looked at issues that, if addressed, could result in fewer fatalities every year.

In their study, the researchers used data collected by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2010-2014 to assess crash, vehicle, driver, passenger and state policy characteristics to gain a better understanding of the most dangerous factors involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes.

“On average across all states, 20% of children involved in a fatal crash were unrestrained or inappropriately restrained at the time of the crash, 13% were inappropriately seated in the front seat, and nearly 9% of drivers carrying a child passenger were under the influence of alcohol,” the researchers wrote in the published study.

However, the numbers across different states and region differed dramatically. According to their findings, 52 percent of children who died in car crashes lived in the South, while 21 percent lived in the West, 19 percent lived in the Midwest, and 7.5 percent lived in the Northeast.

While improper use of or lack of restraints was identified as the leading cause of death for young passengers, the lack of red light camera legislation also played a major role.

“In states without legislation in place regarding red light cameras, the percentage of children who died was on average 3.73% higher… compared with states with legislation in place,” researchers wrote.

While other studies have provided conflicting conclusions on the value of having these cameras in place, the researchers theorized that having this type of legislation in place could indicate a state’s increased interest in enforcing and prioritizing traffic safety measures.

“Further research is required to understand how vehicle type, roadway characteristics, speed limits, and red light camera use may contribute to overall risk of death,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “However, the results on child restraints are clear: policy and enforcement interventions have the potential for substantial impact on the reduction of [motor vehicle crash]-related pediatric mortality.”

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