Child Pedestrian Injuries Peak in Fall
September 07, 2006
This year, as kids head back to school, the Injury Free Coalition for Kids would like to see them do so safely.
Even after a summer’s worth of biking, crossing streets and inline skating – experiences rightly expected to teach kids some street-savvy – the number of local pediatric pedestrian injuries still peaks around September, according to a recent emergency room analysis from Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.
“We see the big, seasonal jumps in pedestrian-related emergency room visits twice a year – first, in the spring, when the weather grows pleasant, and then again in the fall, when kids head back to school,” said Anne Brayer, M.D. and co-director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids Rochester at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. The number of pedestrian injuries triples from March to April, decreases as the summer progresses, and then doubles again from August to September.
“It’s almost like kids need to relearn safe walking,” Brayer said. “There’s a seasonal learning curve.”
Nationally, the most common risk-group for pediatric pedestrian injury is kids between 5 and 9 years old, but in Rochester, local emergency room doctors see the whole spectrum.
“Believe it or not, more than half of the patients treated for pedestrian injuries at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong last year were between 12 and 17 years old,” Brayer said. “The idea, keep in mind, is that the formula for risk involves a whole host of factors, and no age group is ‘too old’ to be concerned.”
Risk factors include obvious acts of carelessness, like pedestrians ignoring walking signals and drivers failing to come to complete stops at crosswalks. But even the most cautious pedestrians and drivers will encounter risks beyond their control, which include environmental conditions such as large traffic volumes, high speed limits and high incidences of curbside parking. Urban and underprivileged areas tend to be busy and crowded, making them particularly prone to pedestrian injury.
This year, as kids head back to school – many of them on foot – Brayer and the rest of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids would like to see them do so safely. Tips to remind kids include:
- Look both ways. Start teaching kids at a young age the value of checking “left, right, left” and to never dart out into the streets.
- Double Digits. Kids should be 10 years old or older before crossing alone.
- Choose routes with cross guards. If possible, opt for school routes that are staffed by cross guards. “Kid’s aren’t too versed in judging distances or speeds. Having an adult on their side helps tremendously and parents should encourage their kids to take advantage of and heed these helpers,” Brayer said.
- Make eye contact with drivers. When crossing before paused cars or buses, make sure to communicate with the drivers; eye contact is good, and a slight wave is even better, enhancing driver-pedestrian awareness and allowing the driver to acknowledge kids and safely wave them across.
- Dismount. If biking, kids should get off, become pedestrians and walk their bikes when crossing streets.
- Cross only at intersections. Don’t cross mid-block or from between parked cars. “It’s important to be visible, and drivers are more attentive at intersections, more on the lookout for possible pedestrians,” Brayer said.
Nearly 5,900 pedestrians are killed by automobiles every year and 84,000 suffer nonfatal injuries, according to the National Safety Council. A disproportionate number of these pedestrian victims are kids under age 15, who experience one-third of the tragedies but constitute only 15 percent of the U.S. population.
Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong treated more than 100 pedestrian injuries in its pediatric emergency department last year.
“That’s a number we’d like to see a lot lower,” Brayer said. “A big help comes from parents, who are virtually professionals at saying ‘be careful’ already. Come September, they should step it up, helping their kids choose safe routes or if possible, walking with them. Even if their kids are bussed, parents should take time to review safety tips with them, stressing the importance using cross guards and making eye contact with drivers.”
The Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Rochester is a child injury prevention program centered at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program’s main goal is to reduce the incidence and severity of childhood injury in the greater Rochester metropolitan area.