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Car Crashes, Falls Top List of Accidental Injuries for Kids

CDC researchers say it's an under-recognized public health problem,,

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Motor vehicle crashes and falls cause most of the unintentional child and teen injuries and deaths in the United States, a new government report shows.

From 2001 to 2006, about 55 million children and teens (9.2 million a year) were treated at emergency departments for unintentional injuries, say researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls caused the majority of non-fatal injuries (about 2.8 million a year), while most deaths were transportation-related -- about 8,000 deaths a year involved a motor vehicle occupant, pedestrian or cyclist.

The report said falls were associated with more than half of nonfatal injuries involving children younger than 1, while transportation-related injuries and deaths were highest among teens aged 15 to 19.

Among the other key findings in the report:

  • On average, 12,175 children aged 0 to 19 years died each year in the United States from an unintentional injury.
  • Overall, the highest fatality rates were among occupants of motor vehicles.
  • The leading causes of injury death differed by age group. For children younger than 1, two-thirds of injury deaths were due to suffocation. Drowning was the leading cause of injury death for those aged 1 to 4. For children aged 5 to 19, the majority of injury deaths were due to being an occupant in a motor vehicle traffic crash.
  • Children aged 1 to 4 had the highest nonfatal injury rates due to poisoning and falls.
  • Males were nearly twice as likely as females to die as a result of unintentional injuries.
  • Risk for injury death varied by race, with the highest rates among American Indian and Alaska Natives and the lowest rates among Asians or Pacific Islanders. Overall death rates for whites and blacks were similar.
  • Injury death rates varied by state, depending upon the cause of death. Northeastern states had the lowest overall injury death rates. Fire and burn death rates were highest in some of the southern states. Death rates from transportation-related injuries were highest in some southern states and some states of the upper plains and lowest in states in the northeast region.
  • Five causes accounted for the majority of nonfatal injuries. Falls was the leading cause of nonfatal injury for all age groups younger than 15. For children aged 0 to 9, the next two leading causes were being struck by or against an object and animal bites or insect stings. For children aged 10 to 14, the next leading causes were being struck by or against an object and overexertion. For children aged 15 to 19, the three leading causes of nonfatal injuries were being struck by or against an object, falls and motor vehicle occupant injuries.

The CDC report was released to coincide with the launch of the 2008 World Report on Child Injury Prevention by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"Injuries are among the most under-recognized public health problems facing the United States today," Grant Baldwin, director of the CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, wrote in the report's foreword.

"About 20 children die every day from a preventable injury -- more than die from all diseases combined. Injuries requiring medical attention or resulting in restricted activity affect approximately 20 million children and adolescents and cost $17 billion annually in medical costs," Baldwin wrote. "Today, we recognize that these injuries, like the diseases that once killed children, are predictable, preventable and controllable."

"Injury risks change as our children grow and we want them to be appropriately protected as they develop. We encourage parents to be vigilant and to understand that there are proven ways to help reduce injuries at each life stage," Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC's Injury Center, said in an agency news release.

To help parents and caregivers prevent child and teen injuries, the CDC has introduced the "Protect the Ones You Love" initiative. Details can be found at

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about child safety and first aid.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Dec. 10, 2008

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