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Safe Kids Campaign Anniversary Report to America

A decade ago, America was less safe for children. Ninety-nine percent of kids rode their bicycles without helmets. About 60 percent of older children traveled in motor vehicles without using a safety belt. One of five families went to sleep each night without the benefit of a smoke alarm. That year, more than 8,000 children died without these and other protections.

In 1987, unintentional childhood injury was the leading killer of children 14 and under in the United States. To address what was a little-recognized problem, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign was created.

The Campaign is pleased to report that since the inception of the SAFE KIDS Campaign, there has been a dramatic 26 percent decline in the unintentional injury death rate among children 14 and under. The combined efforts of the Campaign and many groups -- including corporations, government agencies, foundations and associations -- have led to remarkable achievements in preventing childhood death and injury.

The Campaign’s multifaceted effort, which includes research, public awareness, safety device distribution, enactment and enforcement of laws, and grassroots partnerships, embodies the nationwide strategy that accounts for the progress.

However, despite these advances, unintentional injury is still the number one killer of America’s children. More than 6,600 children die and more than 14 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention each year. That is a staggering one out of four.

Our first-ever report on the national trends in unintentional childhood death and injury tracks a decade of work in prevention. It presents a detailed picture of the particular risks that kill and disable more children than disease, homicide or suicide. This report also maps out a strategy for the 21st century and issues specific calls to action across injury areas.

(This is a SAFE KIDS reprint. To obtain additional information about the SAFE KIDS Campaign or their Tenth Anniversary report, visit their home page at "" or phone them at 202-662-0600)

The Good News

In 10 years there has been:

- a 40% reduction in bicycle injury death rates.
- drownings are down 30%.
- nearly a 40% drop in child death rate from fire.
- nearly a 25% drop in child pedestrians hit by cars
- a 30% drop in bike riders hit by cars.

Laws make a difference! Injury prevention is an effective and affordable solution to keeping kids safe.

The Bad News

Injury prevention is not a national priority.
Funding for injury prevention remains scarce.
A major obstacle to prevention has always been the underestimation of risk.
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children 14 and under.
A shocking 40% of children are not buckled up in cars.
Injury rates for certain sports are rising.

The Problem

MOTOR VEHICLE OCCUPANT INJURY -- More children are killed by motor vehicles -- as passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists -- than by any other cause. The majority of those who die are killed as passengers -- nearly 1,800 children a year. Another 290,000 children are injured.

PEDESTRIAN INJURY -- Motor vehicle crashes account for approximately 80 percent of all pedestrian deaths among children 14 and under. The remaining pedestrian deaths occur from injuries sustained on driveways, parking lots, sidewalks and other off-road locations.

Children 1 to 9 are at the greatest risk of death as pedestrians, with older children three times more likely to be injured by motor vehicles than younger children. In many instances, parents overestimate their child’s pedestrian skills. Children are impulsive and have difficulty judging speed, spatial relations, distance and velocity and often dart into traffic without recognizing the danger.

BICYCLE INJURY -- Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles. Children 5 to 14 account for about one-third of all bicycle-related deaths and more than two-thirds of all bicycle-related injuries.

Each year, more than 250 children die while riding their bicycles, most in traffic-related crashes. Collision with a motor vehicle greatly increases the risk of death, the severity of injury and the probability of sustaining a head injury.

Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes and is the most important determinant of death and permanent disability. The single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes is a bicycle helmet.
DROWNING -- Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, making pools, bathtubs, buckets, diaper pails and toilets extremely unsafe for an unsupervised child. Open water sites such as lakes, rivers, canals, oceans and drainage ditches are also high-risk drowning sites.

The majority of drowning and near-drowning incidents take place in residential swimming pools. Most children who drown in swimming pools were thought to have been inside their homes under the care of one or both parents and had been out of sight less than five minutes. Among children 4 and under, there are about 375 residential swimming pool drownings and more than 2,700 near-drowning incidents requiring hospital emergency room treatment each year.

POISONING -- Each year, 80 children 14 and under are fatally poisoned, and more than 1.2 million unintentional poisoning incidents among children 12 and under are reported to US poison control centers. Nearly 90% of these calls involve children 5 and under.

Children are smaller, have faster metabolic rates and are less able to tolerate toxic chemicals, placing them at a significantly greater risk of poisoning than adults. In addition, their natural curiosity and tendency to put things in their mouths increases their risk of death from exposure to medicines and household products. Children are also poisoned by lead and carbon monoxide.

FALLS — Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for all ages, but especially for children 4 and under. Each year, more than 120 children die from falls, and more than 2.5 million children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. The majority of falls occur from furniture, stairs, windows, baby walkers and playground equipment.


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