Age-Related Trauma in Pedestrian Auto Accidents

Automobile accidents affect people of all ages. Every day people of every age are admitted to Level I trauma centers, which are the best equipped to handle the severe injuries that come out of being injured in an automobile accident. People injured in pedestrian auto accidents tend to fare more poorly than victims in automobiles at the time of the accident. The degree of injury worsens with age.

In one study, people were organized into groups less than 15 years of age, 15-55 years, 56-65 years and older than 65 years of age. About 5800 Level I admissions were reviewed. The breakdown was as follows:

• 19.4 percent were less than 15 years of age;
• 64.1 percent were 15-55 years of age;
• 7.2 percent were 56-65 years of age;
• 9.3 percent were 65 years of age or older.

In the study, 7.7 percent of people died from their injuries, with only 3.2 percent dying under the age of 15 to up to 25.1 percent dying if they were over the age of 65 years of age. Those who suffered an Injury Severity Score of greater than 15, indicating severe trauma were 11.2 percent, 18.7 percent, 23.6 percent and 36.8 percent, respectively.

Those who were older sustained a greater percentage of head and chest traumas, including multiple rib fractures, cardiac and pulmonary contusions, closed head trauma and skull fracture or facial injuries. All groups sustained about the same degree of solid and hollow organ damage of the chest and abdomen; however, spinal injuries markedly peaked with age with a rate of 8.5 percent in those patients who were elderly. Older adults were more likely to sustain pelvic and tibial fractures, while younger age groups experienced more femur fractures.

In the U.S., more than 4800 pedestrians died in automobile crashes, while another 69,000 sustained injuries. Pedestrians have a 1.5 times increased risk of death during an auto crash. Those most at risk were young children and older adults. One of the biggest contributors to pedestrian auto accidents includes alcohol consumption by either the driver or the pedestrian. Thirty-six percent of all pedestrians injured in a motor vehicle accident had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.8 grams/dL.

Higher automobile speeds increased the risk of a pedestrian getting hit by a vehicle and increased the severity of the injury sustained. These types of accidents are more likely to occur in urban areas where there were no intersections or during the nighttime hours.
In order to avoid getting into a pedestrian-automobile accident, pedestrians must be especially wary at intersections where they may not be given the legal right of way by drivers, especially when turning. Pedestrians walking the streets at night need to wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight in order to avoid injury. Pedestrians should walk on sidewalks and cross at regulation crosswalks. If pedestrians must walk on the road, they should walk facing the oncoming direction of traffic in order to see the traffic as it is approaching.

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