Motor vehicle-pedestrian crashes are one of the leading causes of serious injury in children. Prior studies have focused on child and traffic factors contributing to these crashes. The objective of the current study was to examine the role of driving conditions on the occurrence of motor vehicle crashes involving child pedestrians.
Detailed information was abstracted for the period January 1994 to December 1999 from the Philadelphia Police Department accident reports for all pediatric (age <18 years) pedestrian crashes in a single, urban county. Data included pedestrian age, road and weather conditions, illumination, pedestrian location, and intent, time of day, and date of incident.
For the 6-year period of review, there were 3823 children under 18 years of age struck by motor vehicles (range 518 to 726 crashes per year), representing an average of 1.7 per day and a rate of 181 crashes per 100,000 children per year. The mean age was 7.9 years +/− 3.9 (range 1 to 17 years). Crashes occurred when the street was dry (>90%), with no adverse weather conditions (>90%), and during daylight hours or under streetlights (>92%). The most frequent day of the week was Friday (18.1%). The most common time of day was 3:00 to 6:00 PM (38.7%). The spring months (39.1%) predominated, with May (14.0%) being the most common month and January the least. When the circumstances were known, children were struck crossing in midblock 87.9% of cases and crossing behind a vehicle 38.8% of the time; only 4.8% were struck while playing in the street. Injuries as reported by the police exceeded minor in 32.3% with an overall fatality rate of 0.7%.
Urban pediatric pedestrian crashes are common and occur most frequently during optimal driving conditions (good lighting, a dry road, and good weather). The data also suggest that pedestrian crashes are related to the saturation of the streets with children (optimal play conditions) compounded by poor street-crossing technique. Prevention efforts should reinforce the fact that optimal driving conditions are also likely to represent optimal conditions for child play and may increase the risk for pediatric pedestrian injuries through increased exposure.