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Wednesday, 10 September 2014 00:00

Child Road Accidents

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) more than a million young people under the age of 15 experience an accident at home each year that requires treatment at an accident and emergency department. However, thousands more injuries are sustained away from the home, including school accidents and those in the playground, as well as on the UK's roads. Figures available from the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the Department for Transport offer an insight into the accidental injuries children sustained in 2013. With the help of these child accident statistics, as a parent or anyone else who cares for children, you can appreciate which steps are most important to take when it comes to accident prevention.

Across the UK in 2013, by far the most common reason for children to receive care from a consultant for a medical problem caused by an external factor, into which accidents can be grouped, were falls. The data covering the period from July 2012 to June 2013 showed that just under a quarter of all children seen had suffered a fall. These falls were typically not from a great height, but frequently occurred on the level due to a trip, emphasising the importance of simple child safety at home measures to remove any fall hazards. While falls from furniture were still common among the under fives, older children often fell in a playground accident.

After falls, other causes of child accidents each contributed to less than 5% of cases. However, the fact that the causes of some childhood injuries were unspecified means that if the details of these incidents had been known, a more accurate picture of less common injuries would be available. Inhalation or swallowing a foreign body, which may cause choking or asphyxia, was most common in children between the age of one and four years. However, being struck by an object, which may happen if items aren't stored carefully or a child is unsupervised, is still a relatively frequent cause of injury, as is a crush injury, which may occur in child car accidents or in more minor incidents such as a trapped finger. Children injured while cycling in accidents that didn't involve a collision with a vehicle made up around 1.5% of cases. Finally, poisoning, whether it was caused by medications or another agent, accounted for well under 1% of cases, as did scalding incidents. Despite the fact that RoSPA provides information on child accident prevention relating to issues such as drowning, fires and glass-related cuts, only the top ten causes of injury were recorded in this data, so figures for these were not available.

In an article in 2012 by Making the Link, which works with policymakers to reduce the risk of childhood accidents, it highlighted that transport-related accidents were a major cause of unintentional injury in children. As the data set did not consider road traffic accidents involving children, data from the Department for Transport covering the same period indicates that there were 15,920 injuries to children on UK roads. This was a fall of 12% from the previous year and there was a similar reduction in the number of children seriously injured or killed on the roads.

Comparing the data available for the causes of accidental injury in different areas, North West England, London and the West Midlands had the greatest numbers of children receiving consultant care for their injuries. However, this may relate to the size of the population in these areas rather than children in these regions being exposed to more hazards. While falls were the most common cause of injury in all regions, in the West Midlands these only accounted for 18.5% of cases, while in the South West of England these made up 28% of incidents. Injuries relating to a strike, crushing and a foreign body were also significantly lower in the West Midlands than in other areas, while cases of child poisoning were at around 2% in the North West and South West. However, these differences may again relate to poor documentation of injury causes rather than true differences in hazard exposure.

By taking note of these findings, the accidental injury children sustain can be reduced if measures are put in place to make our homes, schools, recreational facilities and roads safer.

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