A recent study abstract reveals that fewer than half of children who suffered injuries from car crashes were restrained, with the lowest rate found among blacks, Hispanics, and native Americans.
The abstract, called “Are There Racial/Ethnic Disparities In the Use of Restraints and Outcomes in Children Following Motor Vehicle Crashes?”, was presented at meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The researchers examined data from the National Trauma Database for the years 2002-2006, looking at car accidents involving almost 40,000 children under the age of 16. The median age was 10 years old. The age range did include children who should have been in car seats or boosters, but the study was limited to seat belts.
The study looked at these factors:
•the race/ethnicity of the children
•whether they were restrained
•the severity of their injury, determined by the need for emergency surgery
•length of hospital stay and morbidity/mortality outcomes
The data indicated only whether or not a child was restrained at the time of the accident, explained Steven Lee, M.D., another author of the study. In an email response, he wrote, “We are not able to determine what type of restraints were used (seat belts vs. boosters vs. appropriate car seats) nor were we able to determine whether the type of restraint was used correctly.”
Overall, 47.5 percent of child patients were restrained. Of black patients, 39.5 percent were restrained at the time of the accident, while 39 percent of Hispanics and 36.8 percent of native Americans were restrained. The highest rate of restraint was among Asian Americans at 59.3 percent followed by whites at 48.8 percent.
These results underscore the need for better education for parents and caregivers, said Marilyn J. Bull, M.D., former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention and co-medical director of the Automotive Safety Program at Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University Health.
“Use of restraints is important in addressing the educational, cultural and resource needs of this hard-to-reach community,” said Dr. Bull. She added that the lead author, Rebecca Stark, M.D., “highlights a serious problem that needs further study and targeted intervention.”
What parents need to hear, and even more important, need to practice, is that children have to be restrained in a way that’s appropriate for their age and physical development.