Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children younger than 13.
Child deaths in motor vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, but crashes still cause about 1 of every 4 unintentional injury deaths among children younger than 13.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2014. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2012 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.
Most crash deaths occur among children traveling as passenger vehicle occupants, and proper restraint use can reduce these fatalities. Placing children in rear seats instead of front seats reduces fatal injury risk by about three-quarters for children up to age 3, and almost half for children ages 4 to 8.
Durbin, D.R.; Jermakian, J.S.; Kallan, M.J.; McCartt, A.T.; Arbogast, K.B.; Zonfrillo, M.R.; and Myers, R.K. 2014. Rear seat safety: variation in protection by occupant, crash and vehicle characteristics. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws on the books. However, even though more children now ride restrained because of these laws, many children, particularly those 4 and older, still ride unrestrained.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013. The 2011 national survey of the use of booster seats. Report no. DOT HS-811-718. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
Seventeen states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear, but there is considerable variation among the laws based on the child's age, height, weight and whether the vehicle has frontal airbags.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Sixty-eight percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2013 were passenger vehicle occupants, 22 percent were pedestrians, and 4 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths declined by 87 and 92 percent, respectively, since 1975. Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2013 were 54 percent lower than in 1975.
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 has decreased 78 percent overall since 1975. The rate at which children die as passenger vehicle occupants decreased 60 percent, while the rates at which they were killed as pedestrians and bicyclists declined by 89 and 93 percent, respectively.
It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in the rear seats of vehicles. Fifteen percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2013 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975, while 75 percent were in the rear, and the rest occurred in cargo or unknown areas.
Children younger than 13 represented 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2013 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.
In 1975 infants (younger than 1) had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but by 2013 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 78 percent for infants, 68 percent for children ages 1-3, 53 percent for children ages 4-8, and 51 percent for children ages 9-12.
In 2013, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for the majority of motor vehicle crash deaths for all age groups of children. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 8 percent of crash deaths for children younger than 1, 29 percent for ages 1-3, 23 percent for ages 4-8, and 17 percent for ages 9-12. Children ages 9-12 had the largest relative percentage of bicycle and all terrain vehicle fatalities, at 8 and 3 percent, respectively.
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2013 was 14 percent higher for males than for females.
Fifty-four percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (91 percent males, 9 percent females) than among child pedestrians (61 percent males, 39 percent females). Fatalities among child occupants of passenger vehicles were about evenly divided between males and females.
The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 28 years, from 15 percent in 1985 to 57 percent in 2013.
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 was largest on Sunday compared with other days of the week.
Twenty-seven percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 was greatest during the month of August.
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