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Child injury deaths in King County drop by 62 percent

More children are alive and well in King County today because of a dramatic drop in injury deaths such as traffic crashes, drowning, falls and burns. From 2000 to 2009, the rate of death from injuries for children 19 and younger declined by 62 percent.

The reduction reflects a decade of innovative public health research, policies, law enforcement, and education of parents.

"There is nothing more valuable than saving a child's life," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Thanks to safety programs and safer practices, we've taken a tremendous step forward in making King County a healthier place to live."

In King County, 22 children died from injuries in 2009, down from 55 in 2000. Public Health – Seattle & King County estimates that 193 children are alive today who wouldn't be if injury death rates hadn't declined.

The improvements in King County surpassed a national trend of fewer child injury deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that child deaths from injuries declined 29 percent from 2000 to 2009.

"In King County, child injury rates have fallen twice as fast as national injury rates," said Dr. Beth Ebel, Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, University of Washington. "We led the nation in strong bicycle helmet legislation, passed the first booster seat law in the country, and have innovative programs to prevent childhood drowning. These programs make a difference."

In King County, traffic-related child deaths declined from 35 in 2000 to 11 in 2009.

"Safer cars play a huge role in reducing the number of traffic-related deaths," said Dr. David Fleming, Director & Health Officer for Public Health. "Many of us can remember climbing around the front seat of our parents' cars —with no seat belts and no air bags. We've come a long way, and our kids are safer because of it."

A variety of other factors also contributed to the decline in traffic-related child deaths, including:

  • Ninety-eight percent of people wearing seat belts, one of the highest rates in the nation
  • Graduated Driver's Licenses, which help keep teen drivers safe through passenger restrictions, curfew times, and more supervised time behind the wheel.
  • Impaired driving enforcement, prosecution and penalties

The number of children who drowned in King County also has been steadily declining; five children drowned in 2000 and only one in 2009.

A number of policies that have made King County a safer place for children are a result of the work of the King County Child Death Review committee. The committee—comprised of health care providers, government agencies, law enforcement and fire departments, prosecutors, community leaders and others— reviews the circumstances of the death of each child in King County and uses the information to take action to prevent future deaths. Changes that have resulted from this robust process include increased education and promotion of safe sleep positions, the promotion of legislation on bicycle helmets, and the removal of unsafe child products from the market.

Despite efforts to make our community safer for all children, injuries remain a leading cause of death locally and nationally, and new challenges persist. Accidental poisonings, including teenagers overdosing prescription drugs, are a growing concern.

"The significant decline in child injury rates can also be attributed to the partnerships between King County organizations and residents who have worked together to make policy- and system-level changes that promote safety," said Dr. Linda Quan, who co-led the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Seattle and has researched drowning for over 30 years while at Seattle Children's Hospital. "But, we still have work to do. Our goal is to get unintentional deaths to zero. Therefore it's imperative that supporting new and existing safety initiatives remain a priority in our governments, businesses and communities."

To learn more about the important work of local collaborations to prevent child injuries and deaths, visit:

'Child injuries' refers to unintentional injuries that occur among children and teens 0-19 years.

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