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Nonfatal School Bus-Related Injuries To Children More Common Than Previously Thought

Each year in the United States, 23.5 million children travel billions of miles on school buses. A study out of the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Columbus// Children’s Hospital is the first to use a national sample to describe nonfatal school bus-related injuries to children and teenagers treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

According to the study, published in the November issue of Pediatrics, from 2001 through 2003 there were an estimated 51,100 school bus-related injuries that resulted in treatment in an U.S. emergency department. That is about 17,000 injuries annually.

“The findings from this study indicate that traffic-related crashes are the leading mechanism of nonfatal school bus-related injury for children in the U.S.,” said CIRP Director Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, one of the study’s authors and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Importantly, our study demonstrates that these injuries are far more common than previously thought. Our results indicate that they are more than three times more common than earlier estimates.”

The highest proportion of injuries occurred during the months of September and October. Children 10-to 14-years-old suffered the most injuries compared with all other age groups. Traffic-related crashes, where the child was injured as a passenger on a school bus as a result of a collision between the bus and another motor vehicle, topped the list of causes and accounted for 42 percent of the total injuries. The next highest proportion of injuries (24 percent) occurred to children as they got on or off the school bus.

“Children 10-to 14-years-old may be more likely to ride the school bus because they are more independent than younger children, and older teens (15-to 19-years-old) are more likely to ride in a car with a friend or drive themselves to school,” said Jennifer McGeehan, MPH, lead author of the study and project team leader in the Center for Innovation and Pediatric Practice at Columbus Children’s Hospital. “Therefore, school bus safety messages may need to especially reach and affect children 10-14 years.” Injuries to the head accounted for more than half of all injuries among children younger than 10-years-old, while lower extremity injuries predominated among children 10-to 19-years-old. Strains and sprains accounted for the highest percentage of all injuries, followed by contusions, abrasions and lacerations.

Data for the study was collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The analysis included all patients 19-years-old and younger in the NEISS database, who were seen in a hospital emergency department for a nonfatal school bus-related injury during the three-year period.

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