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
Age Population Motor vehicle crash deaths
Num % Num %
< 13 52,149,395 18 1,519 3
All others 244,261,009 82 41,924 97
Total 296,410,404 100 43,443 100

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
Year Male Female Total*
Num % Num % Num
1975 2,275 62 1,368 38 3,643
1976 2,095 61 1,328 39 3,424
1977 1,996 60 1,350 40 3,347
1978 2,021 60 1,344 40 3,367
1979 1,934 61 1,237 39 3,171
1980 1,864 61 1,183 39 3,048
1981 1,668 61 1,064 39 2,733
1982 1,530 59 1,042 40 2,573
1983 1,579 63 939 37 2,518
1984 1,484 61 937 39 2,422
1985 1,464 59 1,005 41 2,469
1986 1,560 61 972 38 2,537
1987 1,635 62 1,019 38 2,654
1988 1,610 60 1,088 40 2,701
1989 1,567 59 1,090 41 2,658
1990 1,366 59 966 41 2,332
1991 1,346 60 909 40 2,257
1992 1,311 61 851 39 2,165
1993 1,230 57 932 43 2,164
1994 1,343 58 956 42 2,301
1995 1,271 58 924 42 2,201
1996 1,245 57 941 43 2,186
1997 1,170 56 935 44 2,108
1998 1,181 58 848 42 2,032
1999 1,136 57 861 43 1,997
2000 1,071 57 817 43 1,888
2001 996 57 755 43 1,751
2002 937 58 678 42 1,617
2003 934 57 709 43 1,643
2004 902 55 743 45 1,645
2005 835 55 683 45 1,519
*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
Year Passenger vehicle occupants Pedestrians Bicyclists Total*
Num % Num % Num % Num
1975 1,384 38 1,632 45 446 12 3,643
1976 1,343 39 1,522 44 394 12 3,424
1977 1,405 42 1,390 42 395 12 3,347
1978 1,395 41 1,419 42 387 11 3,367
1979 1,331 42 1,291 41 362 11 3,171
1980 1,331 44 1,183 39 346 11 3,048
1981 1,189 44 1,064 39 332 12 2,733
1982 1,158 45 986 38 265 10 2,573
1983 1,134 45 944 37 298 12 2,518
1984 1,081 45 935 39 253 10 2,422
1985 1,131 46 925 37 278 11 2,469
1986 1,188 47 913 36 293 12 2,537
1987 1,312 49 898 34 297 11 2,654
1988 1,354 50 905 34 284 11 2,701
1989 1,469 55 786 30 276 10 2,658
1990 1,268 54 768 33 185 8 2,332
1991 1,234 55 695 31 226 10 2,257
1992 1,233 57 635 29 215 10 2,165
1993 1,221 56 644 30 203 9 2,164
1994 1,344 58 659 29 205 9 2,301
1995 1,339 61 597 27 197 9 2,201
1996 1,346 62 570 26 164 8 2,186
1997 1,330 63 513 24 172 8 2,108
1998 1,333 66 464 23 152 7 2,032
1999 1,311 66 449 22 141 7 1,997
2000 1,264 67 403 21 136 7 1,888
2001 1,179 67 363 21 98 6 1,751
2002 1,131 70 317 20 92 6 1,617
2003 1,114 68 327 20 93 6 1,643
2004 1,173 71 293 18 82 5 1,645
2005 1,064 70 276 18 79 5 1,519
*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
Year Front seat Rear seat Cargo/unknown area Total
Num % Num % Num % Num
1975 634 46 367 27 383 28 1,384
1976 563 42 423 31 357 27 1,343
1977 654 47 383 27 368 26 1,405
1978 676 48 394 28 325 23 1,395
1979 635 48 394 30 302 23 1,331
1980 661 50 374 28 296 22 1,331
1981 547 46 406 34 236 20 1,189
1982 570 49 421 36 167 14 1,158
1983 548 48 420 37 166 15 1,134
1984 523 48 394 36 164 15 1,081
1985 515 46 428 38 188 17 1,131
1986 550 46 486 41 152 13 1,188
1987 582 44 571 44 159 12 1,312
1988 604 45 575 42 175 13 1,354
1989 637 43 655 45 177 12 1,469
1990 542 43 548 43 178 14 1,268
1991 538 44 558 45 138 11 1,234
1992 514 42 602 49 117 9 1,233
1993 509 42 613 50 99 8 1,221
1994 543 40 631 47 170 13 1,344
1995 558 42 627 47 154 12 1,339
1996 558 41 654 49 134 10 1,346
1997 493 37 692 52 145 11 1,330
1998 463 35 729 55 141 11 1,333
1999 438 33 744 57 129 10 1,311
2000 382 30 752 59 130 10 1,264
2001 368 31 707 60 104 9 1,179
2002 326 29 693 61 112 10 1,131
2003 300 27 716 64 98 9 1,114
2004 292 25 793 68 88 8 1,173
2005 268 25 700 66 96 9 1,064

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
Year Population Passenger vehicle occupants Pedestrians Bicyclists Total*
Deaths Rate Deaths Rate Deaths Rate Deaths Rate
1975 45,851,304 1,384 30.2 1,632 35.6 446 9.7 3,643 79.5
1976 45,000,704 1,343 29.8 1,522 33.8 394 8.8 3,424 76.1
1977 44,337,332 1,405 31.7 1,390 31.4 395 8.9 3,347 75.5
1978 43,907,467 1,395 31.8 1,419 32.3 387 8.8 3,367 76.7
1979 43,778,959 1,331 30.4 1,291 29.5 362 8.3 3,171 72.4
1980 43,914,342 1,331 30.3 1,183 26.9 346 7.9 3,048 69.4
1981 44,049,940 1,189 27.0 1,064 24.2 332 7.5 2,733 62.0
1982 44,131,596 1,158 26.2 986 22.3 265 6.0 2,573 58.3
1983 44,119,297 1,134 25.7 944 21.4 298 6.8 2,518 57.1
1984 43,978,044 1,081 24.6 935 21.3 253 5.8 2,422 55.1
1985 44,260,136 1,131 25.6 925 20.9 278 6.3 2,469 55.8
1986 44,755,454 1,188 26.5 913 20.4 293 6.5 2,537 56.7
1987 45,348,247 1,312 28.9 898 19.8 297 6.5 2,654 58.5
1988 45,942,966 1,354 29.5 905 19.7 284 6.2 2,701 58.8
1989 46,690,604 1,469 31.5 786 16.8 276 5.9 2,658 56.9
1990 47,472,527 1,268 26.7 768 16.2 185 3.9 2,332 49.1
1991 48,240,747 1,234 25.6 695 14.4 226 4.7 2,257 46.8
1992 48,903,668 1,233 25.2 635 13.0 215 4.4 2,165 44.3
1993 49,335,864 1,221 24.7 644 13.1 203 4.1 2,164 43.9
1994 49,692,462 1,344 27.0 659 13.3 205 4.1 2,301 46.3
1995 49,920,484 1,339 26.8 597 12.0 197 3.9 2,201 44.1
1996 50,085,188 1,346 26.9 570 11.4 164 3.3 2,186 43.6
1997 50,364,983 1,330 26.4 513 10.2 172 3.4 2,108 41.9
1998 50,527,476 1,333 26.4 464 9.2 152 3.0 2,032 40.2
1999 50,667,139 1,311 25.9 449 8.9 141 2.8 1,997 39.4
2000 52,219,423 1,264 24.2 403 7.7 136 2.6 1,888 36.2
2001 52,341,395 1,179 22.5 363 6.9 98 1.9 1,751 33.5
2002 52,332,306 1,131 21.6 317 6.1 92 1.8 1,617 30.9
2003 52,187,602 1,114 21.3 327 6.3 93 1.8 1,643 31.5
2004 52,151,406 1,173 22.5 293 5.6 82 1.6 1,645 31.5
2005 52,149,395 1,064 20.4 276 5.3 79 1.5 1,519 29.1
*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 < 1 1-3 4-8 9-12
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate
1975 3,152,345 190 60.3 9,333,943 395 42.3 17,579,867 451 25.7 15,785,149 348 22.0
1976 3,115,391 173 55.5 9,166,175 393 42.9 17,444,438 436 25.0 15,274,700 341 22.3
1977 3,278,804 188 57.3 9,129,735 412 45.1 17,194,329 459 26.7 14,734,464 346 23.5
1978 3,326,388 192 57.7 9,317,815 406 43.6 16,838,903 455 27.0 14,424,361 342 23.7
1979 3,426,309 171 49.9 9,461,992 384 40.6 16,465,482 473 28.7 14,425,176 303 21.0
1980 3,559,861 190 53.4 9,763,803 396 40.6 15,994,363 403 25.2 14,596,315 342 23.4
1981 3,607,455 172 47.7 10,011,438 332 33.2 15,894,690 401 25.2 14,536,357 284 19.5
1982 3,643,586 164 45.0 10,287,129 352 34.2 15,997,832 365 22.8 14,203,049 277 19.5
1983 3,649,198 157 43.0 10,499,379 353 33.6 16,268,975 372 22.9 13,701,745 252 18.4
1984 3,571,921 132 37.0 10,605,208 301 28.4 16,592,564 377 22.7 13,208,351 271 20.5
1985 3,678,657 130 35.3 10,594,540 326 30.8 17,015,987 385 22.6 12,970,952 290 22.4
1986 3,699,568 130 35.1 10,653,722 360 33.8 17,338,168 409 23.6 13,063,996 289 22.1
1987 3,703,294 160 43.2 10,725,924 387 36.1 17,651,459 467 26.5 13,267,570 298 22.5
1988 3,756,541 183 48.7 10,882,631 385 35.4 17,801,235 484 27.2 13,502,559 302 22.4
1989 3,858,435 183 47.4 10,981,085 402 36.6 17,938,226 526 29.3 13,912,858 358 25.7
1990 3,987,662 162 40.6 11,168,053 343 30.7 18,082,010 447 24.7 14,234,802 316 22.2
1991 4,009,515 143 35.7 11,468,844 339 29.6 18,154,546 442 24.3 14,607,842 310 21.2
1992 3,982,857 127 31.9 11,739,325 349 29.7 18,296,744 442 24.2 14,884,742 315 21.2
1993 3,908,335 152 38.9 11,898,416 361 30.3 18,612,278 431 23.2 14,916,835 277 18.6
1994 3,854,882 160 41.5 11,821,298 379 32.1 18,958,858 486 25.6 15,057,424 319 21.2
1995 3,813,169 153 40.1 11,668,778 346 29.7 19,309,487 484 25.1 15,129,050 356 23.5
1996 3,769,544 178 47.2 11,499,426 346 30.1 19,610,009 486 24.8 15,206,209 336 22.1
1997 3,779,543 133 35.2 11,371,094 327 28.8 19,788,553 502 25.4 15,425,793 368 23.9
1998 3,790,645 138 36.4 11,301,476 304 26.9 19,814,280 512 25.8 15,621,075 379 24.3
1999 3,819,903 142 37.2 11,269,665 310 27.5 19,629,729 497 25.3 15,947,842 362 22.7
2000 3,867,754 131 33.9 11,425,866 311 27.2 20,146,324 458 22.7 16,779,479 364 21.7
2001 4,025,873 106 26.3 11,497,211 290 25.2 19,875,164 450 22.6 16,943,147 333 19.7
2002 3,984,989 107 26.9 11,733,679 272 23.2 19,662,203 405 20.6 16,951,435 347 20.5
2003 4,033,482 120 29.8 11,922,039 265 22.2 19,522,343 401 20.5 16,709,738 328 19.6
2004 4,077,188 121 29.7 12,086,916 301 24.9 19,473,829 406 20.8 16,513,473 345 20.9
2005 4,106,627 117 28.5 12,135,517 244 20.1 19,614,024 412 21.0 16,293,227 291 17.9

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
Age Unbelted Belt used Child restraint Total restrained Unknown belt use Total
Num % Num % Num % Num % Num % Num
< 1 85 65 2 2 29 22 31 24 14 11 130
1-3 230 71 18 6 55 17 73 22 23 7 326
4-8 267 69 41 11 7 2 48 12 70 18 385
9-12 223 77 21 7 0 0 21 7 46 16 290
Restraint use among fatally injured children by age, 2005
Age Unbelted Belt used Child restraint Total restrained Unknown belt use Total
Num % Num % Num % Num % Num % Num
< 1 29 25 2 2 81 69 83 71 5 4 117
1-3 81 33 18 7 132 54 150 61 13 5 244
4-8 177 43 156 38 47 11 203 49 32 8 412
9-12 132 45 128 44 1 0 129 44 30 10 291

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
  Male Female Total*
Num % Num % Num
Passenger vehicle occupants 539 51 524 49 1,064
Pedestrians 170 62 106 38 276
Bicyclists 61 77 18 23 79
Total* 835 55 683 45 1,519
*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
Gender Number of children Deaths Rate
Male 26,679,527 835 31.3
Female 25,469,868 683 26.8
Total* 52,149,395 1,519 29.1
*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 week Deaths %
Sunday 256 17
Monday 191 13
Tuesday 157 10
Wednesday 168 11
Thursday 207 14
Friday 229 15
Saturday 311 20
Total 1,519 100

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 day Number %
Midnight-3am 69 5
3am-6am 45 3
6am-9am 156 10
9am-noon 134 9
Noon-3pm 229 15
3pm-6pm 433 29
6pm-9pm 302 20
9pm-midnight 148 10
Total* 1,519 100
*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
Month Number %
January 112 7
February 86 6
March 115 8
April 127 8
May 144 9
June 161 11
July 171 11
August 155 10
September 115 8
October 127 8
November 104 7
December 102 7
Total 1,519 100

References