New Study Shows Motor Vehicle Crash-Related Injuries Take Heavy Toll on National Pediatric Population

September 3, 2007

Motor vehicle crashes (MVC) are the leading cause of death due to unintentional injury from ages 1 to 64 years. According to a new study published in the September edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital, patients 20-years-old and younger injured in MVCs in the United States accounted for more than 62,000 hospitalizations and more than 304,000 days of hospitalization during the study’s one-year period. They also accrued more than $2 billion in hospital charges.

“When compared with other sources of injury, children involved in motor vehicle crashes generally sustain more extensive and severe injuries,” said study co-author Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “As a result, children’s lengths of stay in hospitals are longer and the accrued medical charges are higher.”

Hospital stays due to MVC-related injury ranged in length from one to 160 days, with the average length of stay being three days. Generally, adolescents 18 to 20 years of age had the longest hospital stays. That same age group also had the highest MVC-related hospitalization rate, while adolescents 15-17-years-old had the second highest rate. Children 14-years-old and younger had considerably lower MVC-related hospitalization rates. Males had higher hospitalization rates than females (86 versus 59 per 100,000 population respectively).

“Motor vehicle crash-related injuries take a remarkably heavy toll nationally in terms of deaths, life-long disability and economic costs,” said study co-author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “In our study, inpatient charges totaled more than an astounding $2 billion annually for children and adolescents alone in 2003. And we know that this number is a conservative estimate of the true cost of these injuries, because it does not include physician fees, rehabilitation costs, loss of parents’ time from work, loss of future earnings for the injured child and other related costs.”

As a result of the severe damage and cost of MVC-related injuries, McKenzie said, “The majority of US states have adopted graduated driver’s licensing programs, which introduce driving privileges gradually to beginning drivers. These programs have seen promising reductions in motor vehicle crash rates among high-risk teens. Our study demonstrates that special attention needs to be given to adolescents ages 15 to 20 years.”

Data for the study were obtained from the 2003 Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), the most recent data available, and included 3,438 hospitals in 36 states with MVC-related hospitalizations from January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2003.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) works at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels to reduce death and disability due to injuries through research, education, advocacy and advances in clinical care. CIRP aims to improve the scientific understanding of the epidemiology, prevention, acute treatment, rehabilitation and biomechanics of injuries. CIRP educates health and other professionals, policy makers and the public regarding the importance of injuries, injury research and injury prevention. CIRP provides leadership in the development, implementation and scientific evaluation of public policy regarding control of injuries. CIRP provides leadership and technical assistance in injury research and prevention science.

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-21 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.6 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at