Association between access to pediatric trauma care and motor vehicle crash death in children: An ecologic analysis of United States counties

James P. Byrne, Michael L. Nance, Dane R. Scantling, Daniel N. Holena, Elinore J. Kaufman, Avery B. Nathens, Patrick M. Reilly, Mark J. Seamon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND Access to pediatric trauma care is highly variable across the United States. The purpose of this study was to measure the association between pediatric trauma center care and motor vehicle crash (MVC) mortality in children (<15 years) at the US county level for 5 years (2014-2018). METHODS The exposure was defined as the highest level of pediatric trauma care present within each county: (1) pediatric trauma center, (2) adult level 1/2, (3) adult level 3, or (4) no trauma center. Pediatric deaths due to passenger vehicle crashes on public roads were identified from the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Hierarchical negative binomial modeling measured the relationship between highest level of pediatric trauma care and pediatric MVC mortality within counties. Adjusted analyses accounted for population age and sex, emergency medical service response times, helicopter ambulance availability, state traffic safety laws, and measures of rurality. RESULTS During the study period 3,067 children died in fatal crashes. We identified 188 pediatric trauma centers in 141 counties. Significant disparities in access to pediatric trauma care were observed. Specifically, 99% of pediatric trauma centers were situated in population-dense urban counties, while 28% of children lived in counties no trauma center. After risk adjustment, counties with pediatric trauma centers had significantly lower rates of pediatric MVC death than those with no trauma center: 0.7 versus 3.2 deaths/100,000 child-years; mortality rate ratio, 0.58; and 95% confidence interval, 0.39 to 0.86. In counties where pediatric trauma centers were absent, adult level 1/2 trauma centers were associated with comparable risk reduction. CONCLUSION The presence of pediatric trauma centers was associated with lower rates of MVC death in children. Adult level 1/2 trauma centers appear to offer comparable risk reduction. Where population differences in pediatric trauma mortality are observed, addressing disparities in county-level access to pediatric trauma care may serve as a viable target for system-level improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • access
  • injury
  • motor vehicle crash
  • Pediatric trauma
  • trauma center

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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