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Teen Passengers at Higher Death Risk in Car Crashes
Date:3/5/2008

Not wearing seat belts and young drivers are prime reasons why, study finds

WEDNESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who are passengers in automobiles that crash are more likely to die than younger children in the same setting, especially if the car is being driven by a young, inexperienced driver, a new study reveals.

Researchers looked at 45,560 crashes that involved passengers aged 8 to 17. From 2000 to 2005, 9,807 passengers in this age group died in car crashes.

"We were surprised to find that there was a clear tipping point that occurred between ages 12 and 16. There was a dramatic rise in deaths to passengers in cars," said lead researcher Dr. Flaura Koplin-Winston, founder and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The report was published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Before age 12, the number of deaths per year of age was fairly constant, and then suddenly between 12 and 14, it rose dramatically and continued to rise all the way through the teens, Winston said.

Among these deaths, 54.4 percent of the teens were riding with a driver under 20. In addition, almost two-thirds of the teens who died were not wearing seat belts. More than three-quarters of the crashes happened on roads with speed limits above 45 mph, the researchers found. Drinking was a factor in 21.2 percent of the fatal car crashes.

"To me, as a pediatrician, a researcher and the mother, it really hit home to me that parents need to start the driving conversation way before they start thinking about a learner's permit," Winston said. "It has to start around 12 or 13, because that's when kids start being driven by other people, and, unfortunately, sometimes by their peers."

Winston thinks parents should talk to their children about wearing seat belts and be models of seat-belt wearing t
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