Problem: Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children. Age- and size-appropriate restraint use is an effective way to prevent motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths. However, children are not always properly restrained while riding in a motor vehicle, and some are not restrained at all, which increases their risk for injury and death in a crash.
Reporting period: 2005-2008.
Description of the system: The Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) is a multistate program facilitated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to probabilistically link police crash reports and hospital databases for traffic safety analyses. Eleven participating states (Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Utah) submitted data to CODES during the reporting period. Descriptive analysis was used to describe drivers and child passengers involved in motor vehicle crashes and to summarize crash and medical outcomes. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were used to compare a child passenger's likelihood of sustaining specific types of injuries by restraint status (optimal, suboptimal, or unrestrained) and seating location (front or back seat). Because of data constraints, optimal restraint use was defined as a car seat or booster seat use for children aged 1-7 years and seat belt use for children aged 8-12 years. Suboptimal restraint use was defined as seat belt use for children aged 1-7 years. Unrestrained was defined as no use of car seat, booster seat, or seat belt for children aged 1-12 years.
Results: Optimal restraint use in the back seat declined with child's age (1 year: 95.9%, 5 years: 95.4%, 7 years: 94.7%, 8 years: 77.4%, 10 years: 67.5%, 12 years: 54.7%). Child restraint use was associated with driver restraint use; 41.3% of children riding with unrestrained drivers also were unrestrained compared with 2.2% of children riding with restrained drivers. Child restraint use also was associated with impaired driving due to alcohol or drug use; 16.4% children riding with drivers suspected of alcohol or drug use were unrestrained compared with 2.9% of children riding with drivers not suspected of such use. Optimally restrained and suboptimally restrained children were less likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury than unrestrained children. The 90th percentile hospital charges for children aged 4-7 years who were in motor vehicle crashes were $1,630.00 and $1,958.00 for those optimally restrained in a back seat and front seat, respectively; $2,035.91 and $3,696.00 for those suboptimally restrained in a back seat and front seat, respectively; and $9,956.60 and $11,143.85 for those unrestrained in a back seat and front seat, respectively.
Interpretation: Proper car seat, booster seat, and seat belt use among children in the back seat prevents injuries and deaths, as well as averts hospital charges. However, the number, severity, and cost of injuries among children in crashes who were not optimally restrained or who were seated in a front seat indicates the need for improvements in proper use of age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts in the back seat.
Public health actions: Effective interventions for increasing proper child restraint use could be universally implemented by states and communities to prevent motor vehicle-related injuries among children and their resulting costs.