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Seatbelts, Airbags Cut Car Crash Death Risk 50-70 Percent

Whites, people over 65 have higher mortality risk in car accidents than others

THURSDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Airbags and seatbelts used together or separately reduce the risk of car accident death and injury by about 50 to 70 percent, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago.

Justin S. Cummins, M.D., of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues analyzed National Trauma Data Bank information on 184,992 patients involved in car accidents between 1988 and 2004.

Overall, 46.3 percent used seatbelts alone, 40.9 percent did not use any safety devices, 3.8 percent used airbags, and 8.9 percent used seatbelts and airbags. The death rate was 4.1 percent.

The adjusted odds ratio for accident-related mortality was 67 percent lower for those using both seatbelts and airbags, 52 percent lower for those using seatbelts, and 32 percent lower for those using airbags alone. Whites were more likely than others to die in an accident (adjusted odds ratio 1.35) as were those over age 65 (AOR, 3.49).

"These results show a clear stepwise decrease in mortality with each device used separately or in combination for motor vehicle accidents not limited to head-on collisions," the authors write. "The most striking result was the significant increase in mortality risk for whites despite similar use of safety devices."

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