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17,000 School Bus Injuries Yearly

Number of Kids Hurt 3 Times Higher Than Previously Thought
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 6, 2006 – Strains, sprains, lacerations, contusions, abrasions, fractures, traumatic head injuries … No, these aren't football injuries. They're injuries to children riding school buses.

Each year, 17,000 U.S. kids are sent to emergency rooms because of such problems, a new study estimates. That's three times the number previously estimated.

Why the big jump? The old numbers are estimates based on data about traffic crashes.

The new numbers are estimates, too. But they're based on a national sample of U.S. hospitals providing emergency care from 2001 to 2003, say study researchers Jennifer McGeehan, MPH, of Columbus Children's Hospital, Ohio, and colleagues.

"The number of school bus injuries in this study greatly exceeded those published in previous reports," McGeehan and colleagues note.

Based on the findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all new school buses be equipped with seat belts. They also advise that at least one adult -- other than the driver -- supervise all school bus trips.

The study appears in the November issue of Pediatrics.

According to the findings, the vast majority of the injured kids -- 97% -- were treated and released from the hospital.

And traffic crashes were by far the most common cause of injury, accounting for 42.3% of the total.

The next most common source of injury was an accident that happened as a child was boarding, leaving, or approaching the bus (23.8%). The most dangerous two-month period for riders was September/October, about the time children head back to school after summer break.

Almost half -- 43% -- of the injuries were to kids aged 10 to 14. Children under 10 were more likely to suffer head injuries. Kids 10 and older were more likely to suffer foot or leg injuries.

About one in three school bus injuries was a strain or a sprain, making this the most common injury.

Another one-fourth were contusions -- bleeding beneath unbroken skin.

About one in six injuries were lacerations; with three-fourths of these serious cuts to the head.

McGeehan and colleagues recommend school bus safety education for children. Such efforts should primarily target 10- to 14-year-olds, as they are more likely to ride the bus than either younger or older children, they say.

In addition, the researchers call for more research into effective ways to prevent school bus injuries.

After all, 23.5 million U.S. kids travel 4.3 billion miles on school buses each year.

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