Study objective: We examined the association between driver restraint use and child emergency department (ED) evaluation following a motor vehicle crash (MVC).
Methods: This cohort study included child passengers aged 0-12 years riding with an adult driver aged 21 years or older involved in a MVC in Utah from 1999 to 2004. The 6 years of Utah MVC records were probabilistically linked to statewide Utah ED records. We estimated the relative risk of ED evaluation following a MVC for children riding with restrained versus unrestrained drivers. Generalized estimating equations were used to calculate relative risks adjusted for child, driver, and crash characteristics.
Results: Six percent (6%) of children riding with restrained adult drivers were evaluated in the ED compared to twenty-two percent (22%) of children riding with unrestrained adult drivers following a MVC (relative risk 0.29, 95% confidence interval 0.26-0.32). After adjusting for child, vehicle, and crash characteristics, the relative risk of child ED evaluation associated with driver restraint remained significant (relative risk 0.82, 95% confidence interval 0.72-0.94). Driver restraint use was associated with child restraint use, less alcohol/drug involvement, and lower relative risk of severe collision types (head-on, rollover).
Conclusions: Driver seat belt use is associated with decreased risk of ED evaluation for child passengers in the event of a MVC.
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