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Auto Crashes in Young Cost Billions in Health Care

Estimates from U.S. database find more than 60,000 yearly hospitalizations in under-21 set

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Motor vehicle crashes are a major source of hospitalizations and health care expenditures among people age 20 and under in the United States, according to research published in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., of the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, and colleagues analyzed 2003 hospitalization data from the Kids' Inpatient Database, which is maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They found that motor vehicle crashes resulted in an estimated 62,880 hospitalizations for U.S. children and young adults age 20 or under during that year.

These required 304,196 days of hospitalization and cost more than $2 billion in inpatient charges. The mean length of stay per patient was 4.8 days, and the mean hospital charges were $33,440. The rate of hospitalizations for vehicle crashes rose with increasing age of the patients, but the rate increased dramatically for adolescents at the age of 15.

"Healthy People 2010 has identified seven initiatives to decrease motor vehicle crash-related death and injury, three of which affect children and adolescents in particular: increase use of safety belts, increase use of child restraints, and increase the number of states that have graduated driver licensing laws," the authors write. "Achieving these objectives is critical to improve motor vehicle safety for all occupants, especially children. Special attention should be given to adolescents from 15 through 20 years of age, because this population is at highest risk."

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