The Journal of Pediatrics recently released an interesting study examining whether geography made a difference in children deaths from vehicle crashes. It stated things we already know: unintentional injury is the leading cause of child death in the US and vehicle crashes cause the most injury. Some of the most common causes of injury included not using restraints, misusing restraints, putting children in the front seat before age 13, alcohol and drug use by drivers, high speeds, and rural roads.
After examining the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, researchers concluded that 13% of children who died in crashes were inappropriately sitting in the front seat when they should have been in the back seat. Across all states, 20% of children who were either unrestrained or inappropriately restrained died. And nearly 9% of drivers who were under the influence of alcohol were driving with children. The type of road made a difference too: rural roads counted for 62% of child fatalities.
The vast majority of children who died in crashes (52%) lived in the South, followed by 21% in the West, 19% in the Midwest, and 7.5% in the Northeast. Factors include what was discussed above: unused or misused restraints and driving on rural roads. Also found to be a factor in reducing deaths were red light cameras. In states where there were red light cameras in operation, death rates were lower. Also interesting was that there appears to be a minivan “safety bubble” effect. Children riding in minivans had a slightly lower death rate, though it’s not the minivan itself that may be necessarily safer; rather people who drive minivans may drive slower, use child restraints and use them properly, and so on.
What does the study tell us? A carseat isn’t going to work if it’s not used and it has to be used properly to do its job. The front seat isn’t safe for kids under 13; it’s just not. Red light cameras work. Rural roads are more dangerous because they’re smaller, twistier, and don’t have barriers between oncoming traffic.