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Children's Health

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New Risks for Kids Crossing the Street

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 19, 2012 -- Today’s parents may need to update their advice for crossing the street safely to: “Look both ways and turn off the cell phone!”

A new study shows teens are twice as likely as adults to be hit by a car while crossing the street because they were distracted by an electronic device like a cell phone or iPod.

Researchers found 18% of teens treated at an urban emergency room for pedestrian accident injuries were using an electronic device when they were hit by a car while crossing the street. That’s compared with only 9% of adults.

Among younger children, jaywalking or crossing in the middle of the street and darting into the street were the most common contributors to child pedestrian accidents.

The results were presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

Risky Behaviors Contribute to Pedestrian Accidents

The study looked at what factors contributed to pedestrian car accidents among 1,075 people who were treated at a major trauma center in New York City after being hit by cars in the years 2008 to 2011. Of those involved in pedestrian accidents, 145 (13%) were children.

Among children aged 6 and younger, pedestrian car accidents occurred most often because the child darted into the street (44%) or crossed in the middle of the street rather than at a crosswalk (36%).

"While most of the young children in our study were supervised by a parent or guardian, these children still exhibited a lot of risky behaviors in terms of mid-block crossing and crossing against the signal,” says researcher Nina Glass, MD, of Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City.

Unsupervised activity accounted for the majority of accidents involving children aged 7 to 12 years old (53%), followed by jaywalking (47%) and darting into the street (25%).

Most teenagers aged 13 to 17 who were struck by a car were also unsupervised (88%). Among teens hit by cars:

  • 32% were jaywalking
  • 18% were using an electronic device
  • 14% darted into the street
  • 4% had used alcohol

In contrast, 18% of adult pedestrian accidents were due to jaywalking, 15% involved alcohol use, and 9% were linked to the use of an electronic device.

The results also showed children who were struck by a motor vehicle were more likely than adults to:

  • be male (65% vs. 53%)
  • be treated and released without admission to the hospital (70% vs. 67%)

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