How kids get hurt by cars...booster seats, darting into traffic

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The common thread of research at the American Academy of Pediatrics' recent meeting in New Orleans was, of course, kids and the people who take care of them.

Here's a sampling of studies about keeping kids safe that pediatricians shared during the meeting.

Just what are kids doing when they get hit by a car?

Researchers at New York University Medical Center in New York City kept track of the behavior and injuries of nearly 1,100 patients who arrived at the hospital after being hit by a motor vehicle between 2008 and 2011.

Among the victims, 13 percent, or 145, were under age 18.

Compared to the adults, pediatric victims were more likely to be male (65 versus 53 percent), to have a head injury (82 percent versus 72 percent) and to be discharged from the hospital without being admitted (70 percent versus 67 percent).

Although a parent or guardian supervised most of the younger kids in the study, they still did a lot of risky things.

Among kids 6 and younger, 44 percent were struck when they darted into the street and 36 percent when they tried to cross a street mid-block, away from a crossing.

For those aged 7 to 12, 53 percent were not supervised by an adult, and 47 percent were hit crossing mid-block, 25 percent when they suddenly ran into the street.

Among teens, 88 percent were not with an adult. Thirty-two percent got struck crossing mid-block, 18 percent while using an electronic device and 14 percent when darting into the street.

For the adults, 18 percent of the accidents happened when they did not use a crosswalk, 15 percent when they had been drinking alcohol and 9 percent when they were using an electronic device.

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If all states followed a national standard for booster seat use promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, hundreds of young lives might be saved each year, suggests an analysis led by a doctor at Boston Children's Hospital.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 12 in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids stay in a belt-positioning booster seat until they're 4-feet-9, which typically happens when children are between ages 8 and 12.

Instead, some states only require use of the seats based on age, many only until age 6 or 7, others until 8. Some set standards based on a child's weight.

Researchers looked at 9,848 fatalities and incapacitating injuries among children aged 4 to 8 between 1999 and 2009. In states with booster seat laws for 4-6 year olds, death/injury rates were 20 percent lower than in states without booster seat laws; in states with laws for 7--9-year olds, the rate of death or serious injury was 33 percent lower.

The study, using federal accident data, also showed that children age 4 to 6 secured by only a shoulder/lap belt (no booster seat) were 20 percent more likely to die or suffer serious injury than kids properly restrained in a booster seat; among 7-and 8-year olds, there was a 70 percent increased risk of injury without a booster seat.

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Although the latest Census figures show 2.7 million grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren, a small study done by a doctor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that many are not up to date on safety guidelines for babies and children.

A 15-question survey was completed by 49 people at grandparent support groups.

Among the responses: just 44 percent correctly said the back is the safest position for an infant to sleep (to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome).

Forty-nine percent said blankets, bumpers and stuffed animals are acceptable in infant cribs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against them as suffocation risks.

A quarter said it was okay for a 22-pound, 9-month old to be in a forward-facing car seat. Pediatricians recommend that babies stay in a rear-facing seat until age 2.

Researchers said the results suggest pediatricians need to take extra care to make sure they pass along such safety recommendations to grandparents when they bring children for wellness visits.

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