Full Potential Unintentional Injuries :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Unintentional Injury Trends

Nationally, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children, adolescents and young adults.

  • In 2007, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for ages 5 to 24.

Unintentional injury death rates in adolescents and young adults (age 15 to 24) are lower in Franklin County than Ohio and the United States.

Injury Death Rates 2004a and 2008b


  • Sources: Franklin County and Ohio: Ohio Department of Health Vital Statistics System, analyzed by Columbus Public Health Office of Assessment and Surveillance; U.S.: National Vital Statistic Reports

Medical Insights

“Newer state laws requiring graduated driver licensing (GDL) and booster seats will save lives. Comprehensive GDL programs for new drivers, such as Ohio’s, are credited with reducing fatal and injury-related crashes among 16-year-old drivers by up to 40 percent. For children 4 to 7 years of age, riding in a booster seat reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent compared to using a seat belt alone.”

Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, holds the Dimon R. McFerson Endowed Chair in Injury Research and is director of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy. He also is professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Teen Unexpectedly Survives Texting-related Crash

At the crash scene, it appeared certain Savanna Whitaker would be another victim of a distracted driver. The police were ready with a homicide report.

Riding home with a friend, Savanna didn’t put her seat belt back on after stopping at a gas station – they were close to home. A short time later, she lay face down on the road unconscious and unable to breathe, blood running from her eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

The driver had been texting and veered off the road and into a patch of gravel. The car started spinning, hit a ditch and flipped over five times. Savanna was thrown out the passenger window and into the air 15 feet before falling to the pavement.

Fortunately, Savanna surprised everyone by surviving. But her recovery hasn’t been easy, and it’s not over. She suffered severe traumatic brain injury and multiple fractures, including a broken neck. “I was in a coma for two weeks,” says Savanna, “and when I woke up, I couldn’t walk or talk.” When she started therapy more than four weeks after the crash, she had to relearn everything.

One year after the crash, Savanna is in good shape physically, but has emotional outbursts related to brain injury. “I have temper tantrums about little things,” explains Savanna. “My doctor says it could take two years for my brain to heal, or it might not ever.”

Community Insights

“The lower death rate here is likely due to the presence of an organized, inclusive regional trauma system, with five verified trauma centers in Franklin County. A trauma system involves hospitals, medical clinicians, EMS, public health and government leaders working together so trauma patients are triaged appropriately and taken to verified trauma centers without delay. Here they receive immediate care from a large team of trauma specialists, often saving lives that otherwise may have been lost. Disaster preparedness is also a role of trauma systems. COTS’ new Pediatric Disaster Surge Plan promotes rapid access to quality critical care for children in the event of a large local disaster.”

Nancie Bechtel, BSN, MPH, RN, CEN, EMTB, is executive director of the Central Ohio Trauma System (COTS).

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