WASHINGTON -- Some people find them annoying, but those speed humps that force motorists to slow down in residential neighborhoods and near schools can significantly cut the risk of injury or death to children, a study says.
The review found that children who lived on streets near a speed hump were up to 60 percent less likely to be hit and injured by an automobile than youngsters in areas without them.
The study, released Tuesday, is published in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
It looked at youngsters under 15 who were struck on residential streets and taken to the emergency room at Children's Hospital Oakland in California over a five-year period.
"One of the reasons this research is important is that a lot of times there are things that seem intuitive," said June Tester, a pediatric resident at the hospital and the study's lead author. It makes sense that speed humps would slow motorists down and reduce the risk of injury to kids, but it is not something that has been demonstrated or proven, she said.
Motor vehicle-related incidents are the leading cause of death for children age 1 to 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study said Oakland had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths among California cities in 1995. That year the city began a safety campaign after a pickup truck plowed into the playground of a local preschool, killing a 2-year-old and injuring 10 other children.
The effort resulted in some 1,600 speed humps being installed on residential streets by 2000. Tom Van Demark, the head of the Oakland Pedestrian Safety Project, said there has been a 15 percent decrease in child pedestrian deaths and injuries in the past few years.
Speed humps in many residential communities nationwide are not quite as high as the speed bumps one would find in a grocery store parking lot. Van Demark said the humps, usually about 6 inches high, are relatively cheap, costing about $1,000 each.
He said he has heard complaints from some residents who say the humps signify a low-class neighborhood. "In fact," he said, "they're installed in very nice neighborhoods in Oakland."
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American Journal of Public Health: http://www.ajph.org