NASS Special Study on Child Occupant Protection

Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Below is an executive summary of this project. Please note that this summary describes results and interpretation that may not be final. Final interpretation of results will be in the peer-reviewed literature.

Despite many achievements in the field of child passenger safety (CPS), motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children in this country. In 2006, 1,794 children under age 14 died in motor vehicle crashes and an additional 208,000 suffered injuries. Due to the changing landscape of restraint products, vehicle features and CPS social norms, now — more than ever — an enhanced child-focused motor vehicle crash surveillance system is needed to provide evidence-based direction to government, industry and the public on how best to protect our children.

For the past 10 years the Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) surveillance system at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has been the primary data source used to advance the safety of children in motor vehicle crashes. The nation’s only large-scale child-focused crash surveillance system, PCPS informed new product development, test protocols and regulations, education, policy and medical practice. More than 60 PCPS papers have been published in scientific journals, demonstrating the system’s scientific rigor. After proving its validity and usefulness, PCPS concluded data collection Dec. 31, 2007.

Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established the continued value of a credible, high-quality data source on children in crashes. CHOP and NHTSA recognized that the robust infrastructure for crash surveillance, the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS), in which cases for study are identified from police accident reports, could be leveraged to identify cases for a new child-focused crash surveillance system. This new system would replace previous identification of cases for PCPS through insurance crash claims.

And the concept of NASS-KIDS was born, with its goals remaining identical to those of PCPS: 

  • Monitoring trends of key child occupant protection parameters
  • Informing evidence-based public policy and enhancing public education
  • Assessing the performance and informing the design of enhanced vehicle safety technology and restraint systems for children, youths and young adults

NASS-KIDS would use elements of the current NASS infrastructure to identify sufficient numbers of children in crashes and then apply the rigorous PCPS data collection methodology to obtain details on crash circumstances, restraint and seating practices, and injuries to children. 

The new methodology will ensure a robust data source for child passenger safety program prioritization and evaluation into the future. Without a commitment to continue child occupant surveillance efforts, the traffic safety community would lose its ability to monitor the effects of emerging vehicle and restraint technologies, as well as social norm shifts affecting CPS. The broad, long-term objective of this surveillance system is to enable all stakeholders in the CPS community to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce the economic cost of crashes. 

Publication References

Injury prevention : journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention, 2013 Allison Curry, Mark Zonfrillo, Rachel Myers, Dennis Durbin