65% of alcohol-related childhood vehicular deaths related to riding with drunk drivers

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1. During 2001-2010, 2344 U.S. children were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers; 65% of them were riding with an impaired driver.

2. Of the crashes in which child passengers died, 1/3 of the alcohol-impaired drivers did not have a valid driver’s license and 61% of the child passengers were unrestrained.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)  

Study Rundown: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in U.S. children over the age of 1 and approximately 20% of these deaths are due to alcohol-related accidents. This study examined national data for child passengers aged less than 15 years who were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers (blood alcohol content [BAC] ≥ 0.08). During the study period of 2001-2010, 2344 children were killed in motor vehicle crashes with one or more alcohol-impaired drivers and 65% were riding in the car with an alcohol-impaired driver. In fatal crashes where the child was a passenger of the alcohol-impaired driver, 61% of children were unrestrained and 1/3 of the drivers did not have a valid driver’s license. This study was limited by imputed BACs where data was unavailable. However, a significant proportion of child passenger fatalities occur in children riding with alcohol-impaired drivers and this study identifies opportunities for intervention.

Click to read the study published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Alcohol and motor vehicle related deaths of children as passengers

In-Depth [descriptive study]:  The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded 2344 children killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver from 2001-2010; 1515 (65%) were riding with the impaired driver. Among child passengers riding with impaired drivers, 61% were unrestrained. One-third of alcohol-impaired drivers whose child passenger died did not have a valid driver’s license. Drivers were more likely to be male, not be wearing a seatbelt, and have a history of driving while intoxicated (DUI). These crashes were more likely to occur at night than those involving non-drinking drivers. Seventy-one percent of the impaired drivers survived the crash in which their child passenger died. Over the study period, the annual number of child passenger deaths while riding with an alcohol-impaired driver and the total number of child passenger deaths declined by 41% and 44%, respectively. When analyzed by state, the highest rate (per 100,000) of child passenger deaths while riding with an alcohol-impaired driver were in South Dakota (0.98) and New Mexico (0.86), while the lowest were in New Jersey (0.07), New York (0.08), and Massachusetts (0.08).

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