BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) – Eighty percent of car crashes involving children occur within 20 minutes of home, many during short drives to school or the grocery store in which parents fail to use child safety seats, according to a new report.

Researchers hope the findings steer parents to use safety restraints any time kids are in the car, not just on highway trips.

“This dispels the myth that you only need to be careful when you’re going on a long trip,” said Dr. Flaura Winston, a pediatrician and chief investigator for the report.

Vehicle crashes killed nearly 2,000 U.S. children and injured more than 250,000 in 2003.

Federal safety officials said the ongoing research by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Co. has helped fuel an upswing in child safety seat in the last eight years.

More than half of crashes involving children are at speeds under 45 mph, and nearly half occur on local roads or in parking lots, according to the first Partners for Child Passenger Safety Fact and Trend Report, based on information from nearly 380,000 State Farm policyholders involved in accidents since 1997.

Last year, more than three-fourths of those close-to-home accidents involved serious injuries, most to the head and face, Winston said.

Deaths and injuries have dipped as child safety seat use has climbed over the last three decades, federal officials said. Fatality rates for children under 5 are down 47 percent, from 4.6 per 100,000 population in 1978 to 2.4 in 2003, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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