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Most children struck by cars due to jaywalking, darting into street

October 19, 2012
  • A study examines the reasons children are hit by cars, and finds they often occur because children dart into the street, or jaywalk.
A study examines the reasons children are hit by cars, and finds they often… (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images )

It's among every parent's worst nightmares: You turn your back for just a second, and suddenly your child is in the middle of the street. According to a new study, those worries are not unfounded: Jaywalking and darting into the street are the most common reasons children are struck by vehicles, according to a study released at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

More than 5,000 Americans of all ages are struck and killed by cars every year, and many more accidents lead to significant head injuries. And according to the California Department of Health Services, about four children a day are seriously injured or killed after being struck by a car.

In the study, the researchers collected data on all patients admitted to a New York City hospital after being struck by a car from 2008 to 2011. In total, the study involved 1,075 patients, 145 of whom were under 18 years of age.

The researchers then looked at what caused the accident, attempting to determine why children were struck by cars, and how the reasons differed by age.

Among the youngest age group in the study -- children aged 0 to 6 -- the No. 1 cause was children darting quickly into the street, which made up 44% of all admissions in that group.

Older children aged 7 to 12 were more likely to jaywalk -- the cause of 47% of their accidents. The same was true among teenagers, who were struck most often while jaywalking. But they were also the most likely to be hit while using a cellphone or music player, which led to 18% of accidents in that group. That was twice the level seen in adults.

In what may be a surprise, alcohol use led to only two of the 57 accidents among teenagers. Among adults, however -- a group that included college-age people -- alcohol use accounted for 15% of accidents.

The researchers also point out that children were more likely than not to be struck by a car while unsupervised — except for those ages 0 to 6. As a result, the study authors say, “improving guardian supervision, educating children on safe crossing behaviors, and minimizing common distractors must be components of any comprehensive pediatric injury prevention program.”

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