Number of children killed or hurt on roads down 36%


FEWER CHILDREN were killed and injured in road incidents in the period 2004-2008 compared with the late 1990s, according to a study carried out by the Road Safety Authority and Temple Street children’s hospital, Dublin.

However, in two fatal car crashes over the period, children were found to have been driving the vehicles. One child was in the 4-6-year-old category while the other was in the 13-15-year-old category.

Researchers looked at road-related injuries in under-15s from 1996-2000 and 2004-2008. They found a 36 per cent decrease in the total number of children injured or killed on Irish roads, from 5,928 to 3,659, over the period.

Deaths involving children in cars fell by 38 per cent from 69 to 44. In two of the fatal car crashes, the children were driving the vehicles. The report does not give information on the circumstances surrounding these two deaths.

Of the remaining car fatalities, 12 children were front-seat passengers and 30 were rear-seat passengers.

Seat belts were used in 15 of the cases and not worn in five cases. Whether seat belts were worn or not is undocumented in the remaining 24 cases. Of the five fatally injured who were not wearing seatbelts, two were aged 0-2 years, one was in the 7-9-year-old category and two were in the 13-15-year-old group.

The most significant decrease in road injuries was in the cycling category. Child cyclist fatalities fell by 76 per cent and there was a 68 per cent reduction in cyclist injuries.

None of the cycling fatalities involved children under the age of 10 in both time periods studied.

There was no information available on the use of helmets in any of the cyclist fatalities.

Of all the children injured while cycling, only two had been wearing helmets. In both cases, the injuries sustained were described as minor.

Child pedestrian injuries accounted for 34 per cent of injuries in the 2004-2008 period. Some 1,071 children, or 88 per cent, suffered minor injuries while 32 of the injuries were fatal.

When the two time periods were compared, child pedestrian deaths had fallen by 48 per cent and serious injuries by half.

Prof Alf Nicholson, consultant paediatrician at Temple Street, said the findings were hugely positive.

“There is no doubt that policy changes and concerted publicity campaigns in the intervening period have had a significant impact,” he said.

“It is vital that this safety message continues, however, with an emphasis on use of bicycle helmets and proper child restraints,” he added.

“The use of bicycle helmets has been found to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries by between 63 per cent and 88 per cent. Ireland has an extremely low rate of bicycle helmet use and this is reflected in both our cohorts.”