National Child Passenger Safety Week Research Update
Child Passengers Killed in Alcohol–Related Crashes Usually Riding with a Drinking Driver
Quinlan KP, Brewer RD, Sleet DA, Dellinger AM. Characteristics of child passenger deaths and injuries involving drinking drivers. Journal of the American Medical Association 2000;(283)17:2249–52.
A CDC study published in the May 3, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that of the 5,555 child passengers younger than 15–years–old killed in drinking driver–related crashes during 1985–1996, 64% (3,556) were riding in the vehicle with the drinking driver. The drinking driver was typically old enough to be the age of the child's parent or caregiver. Analyzing national crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CDC researchers found that fatality rates for child passengers killed while being transported by a drinking driver declined from 1985 through 1990 but remained virtually unchanged from 1991 through 1996. The study also found that as the blood alcohol concentration of the child's driver increased, child restraint use decreased.
Implications for Prevention
The authors recommend that strategies to specifically deter individuals from drinking and driving with children in the vehicle should be added to existing policies that deter alcohol–impaired driving in general (e.g., administrative license revocation, mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment for DUI offenders). Suggested strategies include the following:
- States should consider lower legal blood alcohol limits for drivers transporting children.
- The effectiveness of current child endangerment laws (special sanctions for drivers convicted of DUI with a child in the vehicle) should be evaluated.
- Families can adopt their own zero alcohol tolerance policy when transporting children
- Health care providers can screen adult patients for alcohol problems and provide them with or refer them to appropriate treatment.
- Health care providers can include information on the dangers to child passengers when they counsel their patients about the risks of alcohol-impaired driving.
- States should strictly enforce existing child safety seat laws and pass primary seat belt laws that cover all children in all seating positions in the vehicle
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