OBJECTIVES: To compare the age specific rate of passenger injury and associated restraint use for children 2 years and younger in the state of Western Australia (WA), with the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia for the period 1982-92. SETTING: The states of WA and NSW, Australia. METHODS: A descriptive retrospective study of child passenger injuries in WA and NSW was conducted for the period 1 January 1982 to the 31 December 1992. The data provided information about the injured child, such as sex and restraint use, the driver, vehicle, and collision factors, such as time and posted speed limit. RESULTS: A total of 2280 children aged 0 to 2 years were injured in motor vehicle collisions during the study period. Of these children, 653 were from WA and 1627 from NSW. Both the injury and mortality rates were higher in WA compared with NSW over the study period. However 80% and 79% of child passengers injured in WA and NSW, respectively, were restrained at the time of injury. Thus both the sex of the driver and the year the motor vehicle was manufactured best predicted the likelihood of a child being restrained. CONCLUSIONS: As at 1992, WA's population age specific passenger injury rate for children 0-2 years was more than twice the rate in NSW. The comparable rate of reported restraint use by injured children 0-2 years in WA and NSW suggests that non-use of restraints cannot be singled out as the most likely cause of WA's comparatively high rate of injury. It is difficult to determine whether the disparity in rates could be explained by the child passenger's exposure to crash risk factors, as little is known about child passenger levels of exposure to these factors. Further research is needed to address this issue.
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