KANSAS CITY, KAN. Motor vehicle crashes are to blame for more children's deaths in Kansas than any other cause except natural deaths, a recent report found.
The report also found that almost all the children's deaths in motor vehicle accidents could have been avoided.
"We can prevent a significant number of motor vehicle crash deaths," said Sarah Johnston, a member of the State Child Death Review Board and associate professor of internal medicine at the Kansas University School of Medicine in Wichita.
The review board, which looks at how children in Kansas die, last week released its tally of 2001 deaths. Data from 2002 and 2003 have not been analyzed.
The board found nearly all deaths caused by homicide, suicide and unintentional injuries, including car crashes, could have been prevented. For example, three-fourths of children who died in car crashes were not properly restrained by a seat belt or car seats, the report said.
According to the review, 56 percent of the 522 deaths in 2001 were attributable to natural causes such as illness and disease. Unintentional injuries were the next leading cause of death, with more than a quarter of all deaths. Car accidents accounted for almost two-thirds of accidental deaths.
The report recommends strengthening child passenger safety laws, including seat belt laws, and a graduated driver's license system in which unrestricted licenses are not issued until a driver turns 18.
The Kansas board plans to back a lobbying effort by Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition to strengthen child passenger safety laws, including requiring children ages 14 to 18 to wear seat belts regardless of where they are sitting in the car.
The board also recommended more thorough investigations of all child deaths.