COLUMBUS, OH, July 09, 2007 — Each year in the United States, 25.5 million children travel an estimated 4.3 billion miles on school buses. New research findings by investigators in the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Columbus Children’s Hospital emphasize the large number of children involved in school bus crashes each year.
According to the new study, there were approximately 20,800 children younger than age 18 years, who were occupants on a school bus involved in a crash in Ohio during the two-year period, 2003-04. “This high frequency of children involved in school bus crashes – more than 10,000 per year in Ohio alone – reinforces the need to provide the best occupant crash protection possible to children on school buses, which is a lap-shoulder belt for most school age children,” said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of CIRP at Children’s Hospital and a faculty member of Ohio State University College of Medicine.
In November 2006, this research group was also the first to use a national sample to describe nonfatal school bus-related injuries to children and teenagers treated in hospital emergency departments across the country. Following the release of that study and a number of tragic school bus-related crashes earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a public meeting on July 11, 2007, to discuss the issue of seat belts on large school buses.
The previous study from CIRP, published in the November 2006 issue of Pediatrics, found that from 2001 through 2003 there were an estimated 51,100 school bus-related injuries nationally that resulted in treatment in U.S. emergency departments. That equals approximately 17,000 injuries annually. In addition, that study showed that traffic-related crashes are the leading mechanism of nonfatal school bus-related injury to children in the U.S., accounting for 42 percent of injuries. Current federal regulations use a strategy known as “compartmentalization” as the main method for protecting children in crashes on large school buses.
Compartmentalization uses tall padded seat backs on closely spaced seats to provide protection in a crash. However, in the new study examining school bus crashes in Ohio, 23 percent of the children were involved in a side-impact or rollover crash, when compartmentalization offers no protection to child passengers. Compartmentalization also fails to prevent injury from sudden swerves and when children are out of their normal seated position. Lap-shoulder belts keep children in their seats and offer protection during swerves and crashes of all types. In addition, lap-shoulder belts can improve student behavior by keeping children in their seats, which results in less driver distraction and thereby lessens the chance of a crash.“
Compartmentalization may have been the best that could be offered 30 years ago, but this concept is no longer state-of-the-art,” said Dr. Smith...
This from Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Columbus Children’s Hospital press release.