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J Trauma. 2004 Jun;56(6):1276-85.

Children in side-impact motor vehicle crashes: seating positions and injury mechanisms.

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Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.



This study aimed to describe the injury mechanisms of children involved in side-impact car crashes, particularly as these relate to seating position, and to estimate the danger of the near-side seating position.


A prospective two-center study of children involved in severe car crashes in Canada was conducted as well as a retrospective cohort study of children involved in crashes reported in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling System: Crashworthiness Data System (NASS CDS).


Children sitting at the side the car was struck (near-side position) sustained severe head, trunk, and limb injuries. Many of these injuries were attributable to direct intrusion, but some occurred without direct damage to the occupant compartment. Center-seat and far-side occupants had severe injuries only when unrestrained. Injury severity scores were higher for children seated on the near side, and this was statistically significant (p = 0.024) The analysis of Fatality Analysis Reporting System data showed that the risk of fatality was higher for children seated in the near-side position than for those in the center-seat position. The fatality risk ratio was 2.53 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.08-3.07) for restrained children and 1.84 (95% CI, 1.57-2.17) for unrestrained children. Analysis of the NASS-CDS data showed that for restrained children, severe injury (ISS > or = 16) was more common among those on the near side (7 per 1,000 children) than among those in the center seat (2 per 1,000) or on the far-side seat (1 per 1,000) (p < 0.001).


Severe injuries to near-side occupants occurred in both the presence and absence of compartment intrusion. A typical pattern of head, chest, and extremity injury similar to that seen among child pedestrians was observed among near-side child occupants in side-impact crashes. The center seat was statistically safer than the near-side seat, particularly for restrained child occupants. Scene information may be useful to trauma teams for the prediction of injury type and location. Avoiding intrusion and preventing the occupant from striking the vehicle wall are both important to side-impact protection for children. Improvement of the vehicle safety cage may protect against intrusion injuries. Seating two child occupants in inboard seating positions may provide additional protection against intrusion injuries, and also may protect against nonintrusion injuries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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