While some transportation advocates agitate for bicycling licenses as a child safety issue, a new study shows that vastly more children are being hurt as passengers inside automobiles.
A report from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Toyota shows that African American children are killed disproportionately in car crashes because they are not wearing seatbelts.
In fact the report found auto accidents to be the number one injury-related cause of death for black children under 14.
Moving to expand their "Buckle Up for Life" program to more urban centers – all outside the Pacific Northwest – Cincinnati Children's and Toyota say their initial efforts saw a threefold increase in the number of Black kids wearing safety restraints in cars.
"Years ago, a mother who was involved in a car crash in which her child died said something to me that to this day haunts me but also inspires me, 'If I only knew,'" said Dr. Victor Garcia, founding director of Trauma Services at Cincinnati Children's, professor of pediatric surgery and a co-founder of Buckle Up for Life. "The number of African American children dying unnecessarily in motor vehicle-related crashes is alarming, something I see firsthand in my work as a trauma surgeon."
In the bike-centered city of Portland, where cultural clashes between urban communities and newcomers, the issue of bike vs car amenities has led a consistent call for stricter regulation of bicycles.
The Skanner News recently carried a commentary by a local resident who argued that, "to date anyone can put on a helmet, jump on a bike and endanger anyone he or she pleases."
The writer went on:
"…why are we letting kids ride their bikes in public streets without a visible way for the car driver, or the motor bike driver to know if that child has been trained in the use of proper turn signals or where to stop when a traffic light is blinking?"
Cincinnati Children's researchers reviewed statistical information for their report that showed African American children are "more likely than most other children" to die in motor vehicle crashes.
The studies also showed that African American and Hispanic children are "significantly less likely" than other kids to be buckled up in seat belts or car seats.
Major findings of the research include:
-- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for African American children through age 14;
-- In crashes involving fatalities in children under 14, seat belt use is lower among African Americans than among all other race or ethnic groups;
-- 52 percent of African American children in fatal crashes were unrestrained;
-- Three out of every 4 car seats are not used or installed correctly (across race and ethnic groups);
-- The number of children buckled up nearly tripled among families who participated in one of Buckle Up for Life's pilot cities.
"This is a public health emergency that can be avoided and needs to be addressed," Garcia said. "We know that safety education and access to car seats can make a major difference, and working with Toyota, we are glad to have the opportunity to help."
Toyota and Cincinnati Children's started their buckle up campaign in Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and San Antonio.
Now they are expanding into Houston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Orange County, CA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 34,000 people died in car crashes in 2009. More statistics include:
Every 15 minutes, someone dies in a motor vehicle crash on U.S. roads;
Motor vehicle crashes kill more people ages 5 to 34 than any other cause of death;
Every day, eight teens die in a crash;
In one year alone, motor vehicle crashes cost Americans $99 billion in medical care, rehabilitation, and lost wages.
For bikes, the CDC says on average every year more than 500,000 go to hospital emergency rooms after accidents, while more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries.
The Skanner News could find no bike injury statistics divided by race.