“What Kills Kids?”: A Critical Public Health Message

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report that provides the most up-to-date data on causes of death in the United States. This builds on prior research and continues to deliver a critical public health message for parents: the most frequent cause of death for children is accidents

The CDC report is lengthy and they will eventually publish more user-friendly reports. But since the most recent data confirm prior reports, it’s worth your time to revisit prior findings published on the CDC website and look at a visual representation of the leading causes of death for kids. And note the following from that report (drawn from data collected a few years ago):

“For those age 5-34 in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death…”

A breakdown of the newer statistics is available on the blog “The Incidental Economist.” Blogger Dr. Aaron Carroll – who is a pediatrician – provides a sobering review of the latest numbers which I encourage you to read. While there are many important issues covered by Dr. Carroll (including the frequency of homicide and suicide as causes of death at different ages), I’d like to focus on one of the findings from the latest data that he highlights: Car accidents is one of the most frequent causes of death across age groups (the CDC breaks down ages as: 1-4 years old; 5-14 years old; and 15-24 years old).

The reason I highlight this is that parents should be doing everything they can to make their kids as safe as possible when they are in the car. PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE REVISED THIS POST AS OF 10:04 PM EST ON JANUARY 16. MANY READERS FOUND THE PRIOR INFORMATION CONFUSING. TO MAKE SURE PARENTS HAVE THE MOST RECENT INFORMATION, PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR GUIDELINES PROVIDED BY THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE SUGGESTED THAT THIS WOULD BE THE MOST HELPFUL LINK FOR READERS. 

If you follow these guidelines, can you guarantee your child won’t be injured or killed in a car accident? Of course not. But you can be sure that you will be significantly reducing their risk of both. The CDC estimates that child safety seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Look, I found car seats to be a major hassle when my daughter was young. I found it hard to figure out which ones were best. They were a pain to install. My daughter wasn’t thrilled about sitting in one. But I tried hard to get information from my pediatrician and my local police station. We were vigilant about using them. And a few years ago, we were happy we did. My wife and daughter were at a complete stop in traffic (the 4th of 5 cars waiting for a car to make a left turn) about a quarter mile from our home. A driver wasn’t paying attention and plowed into that line of cars with enough force to push five cars together. Fortunately my wife and daughter had appropriate safety restraints on and were not seriously hurt (the same could be said for all the other passengers in other vehicles). I can guarantee you it would have been much worse if they didn’t.

Luck and chance play a role in life – both bad and good. But as parents we might as well do everything we can to try to protect our kids. As Dr. Carroll said in his blog post:

We know what kills kids. We see the results every year… Let’s act on that.

PLEASE NOTE A NEW IMAGE OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS HAS BEEN INSERTED. THE PRIOR IMAGE OF A BABY IN A CAR SEAT WAS REMOVED BY ME AS MANY READERS FOUND THAT IT COULD BE PROMOTING IMPROPER USAGE. 

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  1. by Christine

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    It’s very disturbing to me that the infant pictured does not have a chest clip on. If that baby, buckled as shown, were to get in an accident his shoulders could slip right out from those straps and his whole body could be thrown from the seat. One of the most common car seat errors is proper use of the chest clip, you should probably change that picture!

  2. by Rachel Humphrey

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Just wanted to point out the child in the car seat on your page isn’t even in the car seat correctly. She’s missing her breast clamp across her chest.

  3. by alexis

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I do agree with the above mentioned comment. Here we are trying to instruct parents that a properly installed car seat and the fact that children have higher chances of surviving a crash yet the infant is not properly restrained. Ok article though. Would have liked more in depth information for the cdc.

  4. by Gizella

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Yes! I agree! Please be more careful in choosing stock photos! Especially when educating parents on child/infant safety!

  5. by Erica

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    The baby pictured IS buckled correctly. This is a European seat and they do not use chest clips there. It is only on American seats. A chest clip is a pre crash harness positioner. European seats already have their harnesses correctly placed when properly tightened so there is no need for the chest clip :)

  6. by Rebecca

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I agree with the other posters that the picture is of a baby that is not properly strapped in.

    Also, I just learned from a friend of mine who just flipped their 1 yr old / 21 lb baby to forward facing that it is ILLEGAL in the state of South Carolina to have a rear facing baby after the age of 1 and over 20 lbs. You would think that the state govt would listen to the AAP and CDC. I was shocked to read that and even confirmed it myself.

  7. by S Larson

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    EXACTLY! Come on PARENTS.com! That is one of my pet peeves that parents don’t place the chest clip at the armpit level (correct- not by the belly button where their shoulders will pop out in an instant) and here your pic doesn’t even have a chest bracket and isn’t even 5 point harness. for shame.

  8. by melissa

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    AAP now reccomends rearfacing until age 2. Then kids should be in a 5 point harness until the age of 5 and then in a highback booster until they reach the appropriate age AND weight to be in a regular booster.

  9. by Jennifer

    On January 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    If you are going to advertise this ad mainly in the USA, then make sure that you use an American made car seat! Not European! In the state of Tennessee it’s 20lbs and 1 year of age for rear facing, ages 2 to 4 years and 21 to 40lbs back booster with regular seat belt and and 4’9 and up to 110lbs with a regular backless booster seat. If you are caught having the wrong kind of safety seat in this state they will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. I have had friends who had children who were heavy enough to go into a back booster but weren’t old enough to come out of a strapped car seat. If they had been in a wreck and the child was killed, but the parent lived they would have been in very hot water with the law!I feel that if you truly care about the your children you will stay up to date on everything there is to know about which car seat is best for your children. Unfortunately their aren’t enough parents out there like that anymore. They have children and spend time either in school or out partying to obey a law!

  10. by Carrie

    On January 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Rebecca it is now starting to be required and recommended to leave your child rear facing until the age of two, maybe that is something to bring up to a police officer. I would love someone to give me a ticket for keeping my now 15 month old rear facing, I would sue honestly. Lol

  11. by Kerri

    On January 17, 2012 at 5:27 am

    To go with incorrect car seat picture is the out of date rear facing recommendation. It is now recommended that children stay rear facing until 2.

  12. by April

    On January 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I thought this article’s title was extremely misleading. When I saw “What Kills Kids?” I was expecting to see reports on *everything* that kills kids – not just accident-related.

  13. by Jenna

    On January 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Many years ago, I was in the same setting (in a line of cars at a stop light) only it was my (much younger, I was 21, she was 3) sister out for a special day with me as I had long ago moved away for college. A car plowed into us and the passenger had her daughter IN HER LAP in the front seat. This child was 2/3 yrs old. Her head smashed into the windshield, breaking the windshield where it hit. Luckily, save for needing stitches and likely having a killer headache and goose egg, she was fine. I was enraged. The officer felt that her child being injured was enough of a punishment and only wrote her a warning. WHAAAAT???!!!??? So much for ‘protect and serve’ the most vulnerable and defenseless peoples of all.

  14. by Sarah

    On January 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Think about third word countries..all those “Low class” parents with 5 kids have boosters and car seats..yeah alright!..
    I see some women here almost screaming in their comments..I can imagine them driving.. take it easy ladies!