Risk of death in car crashes reduced if all occupants wear seat belts

Because an unrestrained occupant could cause harm to another occupant during an auto crash, the risk of death is lowest when all occupants are restrained by seat belts, according to a study in the January 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"A car occupant could be killed if struck by another occupant who was catapulted forward, backward, or sideways in a crash," the authors provide as background information in the article. This study estimated the association between the death of a car occupant and the restraint use (seat belt of any type or a child car seat) of another occupant in the same car.

Peter Cummings, M.D., M.P.H., and Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Seattle, analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System on U.S. traffic crashes from 1988 through 2000. The researchers restricted their study to pairs of occupants who were in the same car when they crashed.

"The study subjects who made up the cohort pairs are referred to as targets in this article to distinguish them from other occupants," the authors write. "The main study exposures for each target occupant were the presence of another occupant (not the other target pair member) who might be thrown against the target, as well as the restraint use of this other occupant. A target might be exposed to no other occupant, a restrained other occupant, or an unrestrained other occupant."

For front-seat target pairs, the main study exposure was the presence and restraint use of a rear occupant directly behind the target. For example, if there was an unrestrained right rear passenger, the target front passenger was exposed to an unrestrained other occupant. For rear targets, the exposure studied was the presence and restraint use of a front occupant directly in front of the target. And a side target pair consisted of on

Contact: Larry Zalin
JAMA and Archives Journals

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