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Drunk Driving Remains a Threat to Children in U.S.

5/5/2014 For Release:  May 5, 2014

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death of children in the U.S., and in roughly 20 percent of such cases, at least one driver is legally drunk. A study in the June 2014 Pediatrics, “Child Passenger Deaths Involving Alcohol-Impaired Drivers,” published online May 5, documents how children’s risk varies across U.S. states. For the study, researchers examined National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data of children under age 15 who were killed in a traffic crash between 2001 and 2010. Over the course of the decade, child deaths with an alcohol-impaired driver decreased by 41 percent. Of the 2,344 children killed in crashes involving at least one alcohol-impaired driver, most -- 65 percent -- were riding in the car with an impaired driver. Texas, with 272 deaths, and California, with 135, had the highest numbers of children killed while riding with an alcohol-impaired driver. However, taking relative population into account, South Dakota and New Mexico had the highest rates of children dying while riding with an impaired driver. Researchers found most children (61 percent) of impaired drivers were unrestrained at the time of the crash, and one-third of the impaired drivers did not have a valid driver’s license. Study authors conclude alcohol-impaired driving remains a substantial threat to children’s health, and this risk varies meaningfully among states. To protect children, authors urge states and communities to target efforts at protecting children from impaired drivers and increasing use of age- and size-appropriate restraints for child passengers.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.


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