The Traumatic Impact of Motor Vehicle Accidents in High School Students

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Objectives To obtain the year prevalence of nonfatal motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) in adolescents, to describe trauma symptoms (posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, dissociation), and to test a theoretical model of traumatic events. Methods A community-based sample of 3,007 adolescents (mean age: 14.6 years) completed questionnaires regarding MVAs, appraisals, coping, support, and trauma symptoms. Results Three percent of the adolescents reported being injured in a MVA during the past year. Of the adolescents who reported a MVA in their life (22.4%), 11.0% reported significant posttraumatic stress or other trauma symptoms. Structural equation modeling revealed that negative appraisals mediated the relation between trauma symptoms and MVA severity. Avoidant coping partially mediated the relation between appraisal and trauma symptoms. Social support was associated with less negative appraisals and with more avoidant coping. Conclusions Results suggest the need for a better registration of young traffic victims to optimize screening for psychological problems.

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