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Posted on Mon, May 14, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Death among children: Traffic fatalities leading cause worldwide

By Amy Biolchini

Though HIV/AIDS and malaria may be devastating, they aren't the leading cause of death among children between the ages of 5 and 14 worldwide.

Road traffic fatalities have proven to be the biggest killer and the biggest challenge to public health - especially in developing countries - according to a recently released study by the Campaign for Global Road Safety.

Children aged 5-9 in poor countries are four times more likely to die as a result of road traffic injuries than their counterparts in rich countries, according to the study.

The study reports in 2004, road traffic killed more children around the world between the ages of 5 and 14 than malaria, HIV/AIDS or diarrhea.

It also highlights the sheer numbers of fatalities attributed to road traffic: 1.3 million people die on roads across the globe each year, or about 3,500 people every day.

About 50 million people are injured - information which is less available for analysis.

Developing countries shoulder much of the statistical burden in this area, according to the report: “With less than 10 percent of the world’s motorized vehicles, they account for 42 percent of deaths. India alone accounts for 12 percent of total fatalities.”

The World Health Organization has released a report on road traffic injury prevention that states “road traffic injuries are a major but neglected public health challenge that requires concerted efforts for effective and sustainable prevention.”

These fatalities often occur in countries where populations are still being introduced to vehicles as the main form of transportation, notes the WHO report.

“Locally, more of our problems are in the first year of life, and then beyond the age of 14,” said Amy Teddy, injury prevention program manager at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Teddy said there are many sleep-related deaths - termed “unintended suffocation” - among infants in their first year.

A spike in deaths returns in the age group between 14 and 17 years old, Teddy said - mainly motor vehicle related deaths and suicides.

A growing number of prescription drug abuse deaths have been affecting area teens, Teddy said.

For Washtenaw County, twelve people age 15-24 died as a result of traffic accidents from 1999 to 2009.

There are 14,419 licensed drivers in the county under the age of 20.

Traffic accidents were not an underlying cause of death for people under the age of 15 in 1999-2009, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

Mental and behavioral disorders due to multiple drug use are the main underlying cause of death for people between the age of 15 to 24 years old from 1999 to 2009, according to information collated by the CDC. 2009 is the most recent data available from the organization.

In that age group, 16 people have died from 1999 to 2009 from the activity. Over the same study period of the age group, 14 people died from strangling, hanging or suffocating themselves and 13 people died from some form of firearm discharge.

With the abundance of hospitals in the Ann Arbor area serving Livingston and Washtenaw county residents, many children receive swift trauma treatment - a fact that results in less deaths among children involved in traffic accidents, Teddy said.

“We don’t focus so much on the deaths because it’s really a small part of the picture,” Teddy said. “We’ve seen survival rates really go up.”

Injury admissions to Mott Hospital among infants to children age 14 from falls were the most common, followed by wheeled sports - like bikes - and then from motor vehicle crashes from 2008-2010, Teddy said.

“For every one death, there’s another 45 kids admitted for each injury,” Teddy said, citing a nationwide statistic.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter @amywrites_.


Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

Ban all cars..."Think Of The Children"

Ron Granger

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

Now some drivers will remind us how we need to raise speed limits in Ann Arbor, and how cars must be allowed to drive faster.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

This reminds me of a family I know from the Philippines that doesn't like to use car seats or booster seats for their children because, as they put it, "kids in the Philippines don't use them and they are ok."

Dog Guy

Mon, May 14, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Capitalist prosperity now allows so very many people to own cars. Unfortunately, so very many people have not had driver parents to pass on road wisdom.

Eric Douglas

Mon, May 14, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

Funny how the car industry and general car culture in Michigan and the U.S. is never cited as the main cause of deaths. It's just accepted that when you drive, you're putting your life on the line. Sad. I wish there were more places in MI that you could live car free like Ann Arbor.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, May 14, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

I'll add to that the CDC says we have about 3000 deaths a year from food poisoning. If we multiply the US population by 3 meals a day and divide by 3000 deaths, my math says 1 death per 308,745 meals. That versus 1.1 death per 100 million miles of cars and all of a sudden eating sounds pretty dangerous.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, May 14, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

its only a main cause of death in young people because they pretty much don't die of "natural causes", its statistically logical. In 2009 there were about 36,000 auto related deaths in the US. That was 1.1 per 100 million miles driven. Cars are pretty safe over all, and when bad thing do happen its more often than not driver error which isn't the fault of the car industry.