The new study describes the national incidence of various nontraffic incidents, injuries, and fatalities to children in the United States using a comprehensive, longstanding surveillance system and database. Prior studies have focused on certain types of nontraffic mechanisms such as backovers, heatstroke, power window strangulation, trunk entrapment, etc. In addition to focusing on just a single mechanism, many of these studies have also been limited by institutional or regional estimates, or a narrow time period. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published recent periodic nontraffic incident summaries, including those with child-specific data. The significance of this study is that it is the first detailed analysis that includes all types of nontraffic vehicular dangers to young children.
Instances of nontraffic injuries and fatalities in the United States to children 0-14 years were tracked from 1990-2014 using a compilation of sources including media reports, individual accounts from victims and their families, medical examiner reports, police reports, child death review teams, coroner reports, medical professionals, lawyers and various modes of publications. There were over 11,750 distinct incidents in a variety of venues and vehicles affecting 14,568 children 14 years and younger, resulting in nearly 3,400 deaths of which 47 percent were male, and with an average age of 42 months.
“While we have made great progress in reducing injuries to children in motor vehicle crashes, this study describes the burden of nontraffic incidents and deaths to children 14 years old and younger over a 25-year period, including: children left in hot vehicles, backovers, frontovers, and other mechanisms,” said Dr. Mark Zonfrillo, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and injury researcher from Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and lead author of the study. “These nontraffic incidents present an important and often underreported threat to the safety and lives of young children, and are completely preventable” he added.
“These issues have been masked for decades by the age-old problem of, no data; no problem. Once thought of and referred to as ‘freak accidents,’ this study reveals just how common nontraffic incidents really are,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org. “Continued education, engineering modifications, advocacy, and legislation can help continue to prevent these incidents and must be incorporated into overall child vehicle safety initiatives.”