Children | 2005

Child deaths in motor vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, but crashes still cause about 1 of every 4 injury deaths among children 12 and younger. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Atlanta, GA. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/. Among those 5-12 years old, motor vehicle crash injuries are the leading cause of death. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003. WISQARS leading cause of death reports, 1999-2003. Atlanta, GA. Available: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html. Most of these 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 a third among those 12 and younger. Braver, E.R.; Whitfield, R.; and Ferguson, S.A. 1998. Seating positions and children's risk of dying in motor vehicle crashes. Injury Prevention 4:181-87.

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. Glassbrenner, D. 2005. Child restraint use in 2004 — overall results. Report no. DOT HS-809-845. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Loopholes in the laws exempt many children from coverage under either safety belt or child restraint use laws. So wide were these gaps in coverage in 1984 that about 35 percent of children ages 6 and younger killed in crashes before their states' child restraint laws took effect wouldn't have been covered by the laws that eventually were enacted. Teret, S.P.; Jones, A.S.; Williams, A.F.; and Wells, J.K. 1986. Child restraint laws: an analysis of gaps in coverage. American Journal of Public Health 76:31-34. Gaps remain in the laws of 7 states for children 12 and younger. These affect older children in rear seats, and in a few states additional gaps affect children transported in out-of-state vehicles or by nonresidents. Another problem is the persistence of incorrectly used child restraints and safety belts.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Trends

Children younger than 13 represented 18 percent of the US population in 2005 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.

Population and motor vehicle crash deaths by age, 2005
AgePopulationMotor vehicle crash deaths
Num%Num%
< 1352,149,395181,5193
All others244,261,0098241,92497
Total296,410,40410043,443100

A total of 1,519 children died in motor vehicle crashes in 2005. This is an 8 percent decline from 2004 and a 58 percent decline from 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2005
YearMaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
19752,275621,368383,643
19762,095611,328393,424
19771,996601,350403,347
19782,021601,344403,367
19791,934611,237393,171
19801,864611,183393,048
19811,668611,064392,733
19821,530591,042402,573
19831,57963939372,518
19841,48461937392,422
19851,464591,005412,469
19861,56061972382,537
19871,635621,019382,654
19881,610601,088402,701
19891,567591,090412,658
19901,36659966412,332
19911,34660909402,257
19921,31161851392,165
19931,23057932432,164
19941,34358956422,301
19951,27158924422,201
19961,24557941432,186
19971,17056935442,108
19981,18158848422,032
19991,13657861431,997
20001,07157817431,888
200199657755431,751
200293758678421,617
200393457709431,643
200490255743451,645
200583555683451,519
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventy percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 were passenger vehicle occupants, 18 percent were pedestrians, and 5 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths combined have declined 83 percent since 1975. However, passenger vehicle occupant deaths among children were only 23 percent lower in 2005 than in 1975. Still, child occupant deaths are 28 percent lower than their highest number in 1989.

Motor vehicle deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2005

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2005
YearPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestriansBicyclistsTotal*
Num%Num%Num%Num
19751,384381,63245446123,643
19761,343391,52244394123,424
19771,405421,39042395123,347
19781,395411,41942387113,367
19791,331421,29141362113,171
19801,331441,18339346113,048
19811,189441,06439332122,733
19821,1584598638265102,573
19831,1344594437298122,518
19841,0814593539253102,422
19851,1314692537278112,469
19861,1884791336293122,537
19871,3124989834297112,654
19881,3545090534284112,701
19891,4695578630276102,658
19901,268547683318582,332
19911,2345569531226102,257
19921,2335763529215102,165
19931,221566443020392,164
19941,344586592920592,301
19951,339615972719792,201
19961,346625702616482,186
19971,330635132417282,108
19981,333664642315272,032
19991,311664492214171,997
20001,264674032113671,888
20011,17967363219861,751
20021,13170317209261,617
20031,11468327209361,643
20041,17371293188251,645
20051,06470276187951,519
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in vehicle rear seats. Twenty-five percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2005 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975. Sixty-six percent occurred in rear seats, and the rest occurred in cargo or unknown areas.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths by seating position, 1975-2005
YearFront seatRear seatCargo/unknown areaTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num
19756344636727383281,384
19765634242331357271,343
19776544738327368261,405
19786764839428325231,395
19796354839430302231,331
19806615037428296221,331
19815474640634236201,189
19825704942136167141,158
19835484842037166151,134
19845234839436164151,081
19855154642838188171,131
19865504648641152131,188
19875824457144159121,312
19886044557542175131,354
19896374365545177121,469
19905424354843178141,268
19915384455845138111,234
1992514426024911791,233
199350942613509981,221
19945434063147170131,344
19955584262747154121,339
19965584165449134101,346
19974933769252145111,330
19984633572955141111,333
19994383374457129101,311
20003823075259130101,264
2001368317076010491,179
20023262969361112101,131
200330027716649891,114
200429225793688881,173
200526825700669691,064

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children has decreased 63 percent overall since 1975. The death rate for passenger vehicle child occupants decreased 32 percent, while the death rate for child pedestrians and bicyclists combined declined by 85 percent.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children, 1975-2005
YearPopulationPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestriansBicyclistsTotal*
DeathsRateDeathsRateDeathsRateDeathsRate
197545,851,3041,38430.21,63235.64469.73,64379.5
197645,000,7041,34329.81,52233.83948.83,42476.1
197744,337,3321,40531.71,39031.43958.93,34775.5
197843,907,4671,39531.81,41932.33878.83,36776.7
197943,778,9591,33130.41,29129.53628.33,17172.4
198043,914,3421,33130.31,18326.93467.93,04869.4
198144,049,9401,18927.01,06424.23327.52,73362.0
198244,131,5961,15826.298622.32656.02,57358.3
198344,119,2971,13425.794421.42986.82,51857.1
198443,978,0441,08124.693521.32535.82,42255.1
198544,260,1361,13125.692520.92786.32,46955.8
198644,755,4541,18826.591320.42936.52,53756.7
198745,348,2471,31228.989819.82976.52,65458.5
198845,942,9661,35429.590519.72846.22,70158.8
198946,690,6041,46931.578616.82765.92,65856.9
199047,472,5271,26826.776816.21853.92,33249.1
199148,240,7471,23425.669514.42264.72,25746.8
199248,903,6681,23325.263513.02154.42,16544.3
199349,335,8641,22124.764413.12034.12,16443.9
199449,692,4621,34427.065913.32054.12,30146.3
199549,920,4841,33926.859712.01973.92,20144.1
199650,085,1881,34626.957011.41643.32,18643.6
199750,364,9831,33026.451310.21723.42,10841.9
199850,527,4761,33326.44649.21523.02,03240.2
199950,667,1391,31125.94498.91412.81,99739.4
200052,219,4231,26424.24037.71362.61,88836.2
200152,341,3951,17922.53636.9981.91,75133.5
200252,332,3061,13121.63176.1921.81,61730.9
200352,187,6021,11421.33276.3931.81,64331.5
200452,151,4061,17322.52935.6821.61,64531.5
200552,149,3951,06420.42765.3791.51,51929.1
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Age and gender

In 1975 infants had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but by 2005 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 53 percent for infants, 52 percent for children ages 1-3, 18 percent for children ages 4-8, and 19 percent for children ages 9-12.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children, 1975-2005

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children, 1975-2005
Year< 11-34-89-12
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRate
19753,152,34519060.39,333,94339542.317,579,86745125.715,785,14934822.0
19763,115,39117355.59,166,17539342.917,444,43843625.015,274,70034122.3
19773,278,80418857.39,129,73541245.117,194,32945926.714,734,46434623.5
19783,326,38819257.79,317,81540643.616,838,90345527.014,424,36134223.7
19793,426,30917149.99,461,99238440.616,465,48247328.714,425,17630321.0
19803,559,86119053.49,763,80339640.615,994,36340325.214,596,31534223.4
19813,607,45517247.710,011,43833233.215,894,69040125.214,536,35728419.5
19823,643,58616445.010,287,12935234.215,997,83236522.814,203,04927719.5
19833,649,19815743.010,499,37935333.616,268,97537222.913,701,74525218.4
19843,571,92113237.010,605,20830128.416,592,56437722.713,208,35127120.5
19853,678,65713035.310,594,54032630.817,015,98738522.612,970,95229022.4
19863,699,56813035.110,653,72236033.817,338,16840923.613,063,99628922.1
19873,703,29416043.210,725,92438736.117,651,45946726.513,267,57029822.5
19883,756,54118348.710,882,63138535.417,801,23548427.213,502,55930222.4
19893,858,43518347.410,981,08540236.617,938,22652629.313,912,85835825.7
19903,987,66216240.611,168,05334330.718,082,01044724.714,234,80231622.2
19914,009,51514335.711,468,84433929.618,154,54644224.314,607,84231021.2
19923,982,85712731.911,739,32534929.718,296,74444224.214,884,74231521.2
19933,908,33515238.911,898,41636130.318,612,27843123.214,916,83527718.6
19943,854,88216041.511,821,29837932.118,958,85848625.615,057,42431921.2
19953,813,16915340.111,668,77834629.719,309,48748425.115,129,05035623.5
19963,769,54417847.211,499,42634630.119,610,00948624.815,206,20933622.1
19973,779,54313335.211,371,09432728.819,788,55350225.415,425,79336823.9
19983,790,64513836.411,301,47630426.919,814,28051225.815,621,07537924.3
19993,819,90314237.211,269,66531027.519,629,72949725.315,947,84236222.7
20003,867,75413133.911,425,86631127.220,146,32445822.716,779,47936421.7
20014,025,87310626.311,497,21129025.219,875,16445022.616,943,14733319.7
20023,984,98910726.911,733,67927223.219,662,20340520.616,951,43534720.5
20034,033,48212029.811,922,03926522.219,522,34340120.516,709,73832819.6
20044,077,18812129.712,086,91630124.919,473,82940620.816,513,47334520.9
20054,106,62711728.512,135,51724420.119,614,02441221.016,293,22729117.9

The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 20 years among infants and 1-3 year-olds (from 23 percent in 1985 to 65 percent in 2005). The increase has been somewhat smaller among older children (from 10 to 47 percent). As children get older they are less likely to be restrained. In 2005 71 percent of fatally injured children younger than 1 were restrained compared with 44 percent of 9-12 year-olds. Note, however, that these percentages are not estimates of restraint use among all children involved in potentially fatal crashes. For example, if restraint use among fatally injured 9-12 year-olds (44 percent) is properly recorded, and if restraints are 45 percent effective in preventing fatalities, then restraint use among 9-12 year-olds in such severe crashes is estimated to be 59 percent.

Restraint use among fatally injured children by age, 1985
AgeUnbeltedBelt usedChild restraintTotal restrainedUnknown belt useTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 1856522292231241411130
1-32307118655177322237326
4-82676941117248127018385
9-1222377217002174616290
Restraint use among fatally injured children by age, 2005
AgeUnbeltedBelt usedChild restraintTotal restrainedUnknown belt useTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 12925228169837154117
1-381331871325415061135244
4-81774315638471120349328412
9-12132451284410129443010291

Overall 55 percent of the children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (77 percent males, 23 percent females) than among child pedestrians (62 percent males, 38 percent females). There was little gender difference in fatalities among child occupants of passenger vehicles (51 percent males, 49 percent females).

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children by type and gender, 2005
 MaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
Passenger vehicle occupants53951524491,064
Pedestrians1706210638276
Bicyclists6177182379
Total*83555683451,519
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2005 was 14 percent higher for males than for females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children by gender, 2005
GenderNumber of childrenDeathsRate
Male26,679,52783531.3
Female25,469,86868326.8
Total*52,149,3951,51929.1
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When they died

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005 was greater on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday than on other days of the week.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by day of week, 2005
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday25617
Monday19113
Tuesday15710
Wednesday16811
Thursday20714
Friday22915
Saturday31120
Total1,519100

Twenty-nine percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2005 occurred during 3-6pm.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by time of day, 2005
Time of dayNumber%
Midnight-3am695
3am-6am453
6am-9am15610
9am-noon1349
Noon-3pm22915
3pm-6pm43329
6pm-9pm30220
9pm-midnight14810
Total*1,519100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes was greater during June-August than during other months.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by month, 2005
MonthNumber%
January1127
February866
March1158
April1278
May1449
June16111
July17111
August15510
September1158
October1278
November1047
December1027
Total1,519100

References