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Notice to Readers: Reducing the Risk for Injury While Traveling for Thanksgiving Holidays

Please note: An erratum has been published for this article. To view the erratum, please click here.

Each year in the United States, motor-vehicle crashes result in approximately 40,000 deaths (1) and 3.2 million nonfatal injuries (2). In 2000 during the Thanksgiving holiday, motor-vehicle crashes killed approximately 500 persons (US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, unpublished data, 2000), and resulted in >43,000 hospital emergency department visits (2). Following are steps that might prevent many of these deaths and injuries:

  • Wear safety belts at all times. Safety-belt use is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and nonfatal injuries in motor-vehicle crashes. Although safety belts reduce the risk for death by approximately 45%--60%, three out of 10 U.S. adults do not routinely use them. Effective interventions to increase safety-belt use include safety-belt laws, primary enforcement laws, and enhanced enforcement programs (3).
  • Place children in age appropriate restraints. Infants should be placed in rear-facing child safety seats (CSSs) until they are at least age 1 year and 20--22 lbs. Older children, up to 40 lbs., are safest in forward facing convertible CSSs. School-aged children who have outgrown convertible CSSs should be placed in a booster seat until they fit in a car safety belt alone. Effective interventions to increase CSS use include child safety seat use laws, communitywide information plus enhanced enforcement campaigns, CSS distribution plus education programs, and incentive plus education programs that reward parents or children for correctly using CSSs (4).
  • Place all children aged <12 years in the back seat. This eliminates the injury risk for deployed passenger-side airbags and places the child in the safest part of the vehicle in a crash. It is particularly important not to place infants in the front of an airbag. Riding in the back seat is associated with at least a 30% reduction in the risk for fatal injury (5).
  • Never drink and drive. More than 16,000 (73%) traffic deaths each year are associated with alcohol use (6). Effective interventions to reduce alcohol-impaired driving include 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) laws, lower BAC laws for young or inexperienced drivers, minimum legal drinking age laws, sobriety checkpoints, and server intervention programs that involve face-to-face instruction and management support (7).

Additional information is available at <>.


  1. CDC. National Center for Health Statistics. Annual mortality tapes. Hyattsville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, 1999.
  2. CDC. Data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program operated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Atlanta, Georgia: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2001.
  3. Dinh-Zarr TB, Sleet DA, Shults RA, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to increase the use of safety belts. Am J Prev Med 2001;21:48--65.
  4. Zaza S, Sleet DA, Thompson RS, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to increase use of child safety seats. Am J Prev Med 2001;21:31--47.
  5. Braver ER, Whitfield R, Ferguson SA. Seating position and children's risk of dying in motor vehicle crashes. Injury Prev 1998;4:181--7.
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts 1999: alcohol. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2000; publication no. DOT HS 809 086.
  7. Shults RA, Elder RW, Sleet DA, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding intervention to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. Am J Prev Med 2001;21:66--88.

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