Teen Drivers Pose Risk to Child Occupants; Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Find that Children Transported by Teen Drivers Are at a Much Higher Risk of Injury

02/3/2005

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A national study of children in car crashes reports that children who were driven by teenagers were three times as likely to have a serious injury as those who were driven by adults. The risk was highest for young teenaged passengers, those ages 13 to 15.

According to researchers from Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS), a research partnership of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State
Farm(R), teen drivers were more likely than adult drivers to be involved in more severe crashes and less likely to have child passengers under age 9 years
properly restrained. The researchers propose modifying state licensing laws to
provide education and requirements that promote safer driving by teenaged
drivers.

The study, published in this month's issue of "Injury Prevention," looked
at 19,111 children in 12,163 crashes reported to State Farm. Overall, teenagers drove four percent of these children in crashes. When a child was
injured, however, teenagers were much more likely to be driving - 12 percent
of the injured children had a teen driver. These children were not just their
peers: 40 percent of teen-driven child passengers were younger than 13
suggesting that teens regularly drive younger children.

"The excess risk of injury to children in teen driver crashes can be primarily explained by the more severe crashes those teen drivers incurred," states Flaura Winston, MD, Ph.D., principal investigator for Partners for Child Passenger Safety and the scientific director of TraumaLink, a pediatric injury research center at Children's Hospital. "The severity is likely a function of a teen driver's inexperienced driving or risk-taking behavior and
immaturity."

Dr. Winston and her colleagues also noted higher likelihood of no restraint use and front row seating for child passengers who were driven by 15- to 17-year-old drivers. Children riding with these novice teen drivers were 3 times as likely to have no restraint at all as those with adult
drivers. Also, children under age 13 years riding with novice teen drivers were more likely to sit in the front seat as compared to those with adult drivers.

"Parents need to understand the excess risk of allowing their teens to drive younger siblings," says Dr. Winston. "Parents should reinforce over and over the importance of safe driving habits among their teens to not only reduce their high crash rates but also to make sure that the teen driver and the passengers are appropriately restrained on every trip."

Enhanced public policy that includes child restraint and rear-seating requirements in state graduated driver's licensing (GDL) programs could provide teens with the necessary motivation to properly restrain all child passengers.

Nearly all states have some form of a GDL law in an attempt to address the
persistent public health issue of teen driver crashes. Approximately 26 states have passenger restrictions during the intermediate licensing stage to prevent or limit the number of teenaged passengers - a known risk factor for teen crashes. All current passenger restrictions exempt transporting family members.

"Busy parents have come to rely on their older children helping with shuttling siblings to various commitments," says Dr. Winston. Rather than restrict sibling passengers, Dr. Winston recommends GDL programs provide appropriate education and disincentives, such as postponement of full-driving privileges if all child passengers are not properly restrained.

Partners for Child Passenger Safety is a research collaboration between The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm. PCPS has created a database containing information on more than 300,000 crashes involving more than 453,000 children from birth through age 15 years. It is the largest source of data on children in motor vehicle crashes. PCPS is based at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and is funded by State Farm. Co-authors of the study with Dr. Winston are PCPS researchers Irene G. Chen, M.P.H., Dr.P.H.; Michael R. Elliot, Ph.D.; and Dennis R. Durbin, M.D., M.S.C.E.

Founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked today as the best pediatric hospital in the nation by U.S.News & World Report and Child magazines. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service
programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate
for children and adolescents from before birth through age 19. Children's Hospital operates the largest pediatric healthcare system in the U.S. with more than 40 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

CONTACT: Suzanne Hill, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, +1-267-426-6067, hillsu@email.chop.edu.