Child Injuries, Deaths in Car Accidents on the Rise, NHTSA Reports

The loss of a child is a profound and devastating loss that leaves parents, siblings, and other loved ones forever changed. It can be particularly traumatizing when the death occurs suddenly and unnecessarily, such as in a car accident.

Motor vehicle crashes remain one of the top causes of childhood mortality and serious injuries, and new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows they are on the rise nationally.

Just recently, a nine-year-old Maine boy died after suffering severe traumatic brain injuries in a car accident on Interstate 95 that closed the highway for hours. The boy, from Kittery, was killed in the Connecticut crash while seated in the back of a Toyota Camry, seat belt fastened. According to the Bangor Daily News, the driver of his vehicle had to stop abruptly due to a sudden slowdown in traffic up ahead. The 29-year-old driver of a sport utility vehicle directly behind them slammed into the back of the car and then pushed it into the vehicle ahead. The driver who rear-ended the Camry was also from Maine.

Two of those involved were treated for minor injuries, but the child was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Although no one has been charged or cited for the fatal crash as of this writing, it should be noted there is a rebuttable presumption in most rear-end crashes that the rear driver was at fault. All drivers are required to maintain an assured clear distance from the vehicle ahead just in case there is a need for a sudden stop, which is a foreseeable risk. What this means is the court will presume the driver to the rear of the car was to blame, but he or she could present evidence to prove why they aren’t. In this particular case, that could mean the boy’s family would likely be able to show the 29-year-old SUV driver was to blame. They may also be able to prove the negligence of the driver ahead if they can find affirmative evidence or testimony that the vehicle ahead made a sudden and unexpected stop.

Sadly, it is the innocent child in this case who has paid the ultimate price for the negligence of at least one adult driver. The NHTSA reported that of the more than 35,000 motor vehicle fatalities reported in 2015, approximately three percent – or 1,132 – were children ages 14 and younger. That marked a five percent increase form the number killed in auto accidents in 2014. On average, three children die in this country each day in motor vehicle crashes. Another 487 children are injured, which amounted to 178,000 child injuries in 2015. That’s a six percent increase from the 167,000 child injuries reported in 2014.

These are alarming single-year increases, although it should be noted 2015 statistics were still lower than the levels we saw in 2006, when 1,798 children died and 208,000 were injured in crashes.

When it came to the types of fatal crashes:

  • Passenger vehicle fatalities – three percent were children
  • Pedestrian accident fatalities – four percent were children
  • Bicycle accident fatalities – five percent were children
  • Drunk driving fatalities – 16 percent were children

The recent uptick, although not as high as it’s ever been, is troubling especially for the fact that we know motor vehicles have gotten safer. Car seats have improved, more vehicles are equipped with crash avoidance technology, and more children are wearing their seat belts. One of the issues not cited in the NHTSA report but known to be a catalyst in a growing number of crashes the last few years is driver distraction. Given that 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center, this phenomenon is leading to a rising number of fatal crashes, including those that result in child injuries and death.

Driver distraction accounts for a significant number of rear-end collisions because drivers aren’t paying close attention to the need to react quickly to slowed or stopped traffic ahead.

If you are a victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Boy dies from injuries suffered in I-95 crash, April 21, 2017, By Jim Shay, Connecticut Post

More Blog Entries:

Maine School Bus Accident Kills Mother, Three-Year-Old Son, April 12, 2017, Car Accident Attorney in Bangor Blog

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