Children | 2006

Child deaths in motor vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, but crashes still cause about 1 of every 3 injury deaths among children younger than 13. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2004. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Atlanta, GA. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/. Among those 2-12 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 4:181-187.

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: U.S. Department of Transportation. Fifteen states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear, however there is considerable variation based on the child's age, height, weight, and if the vehicle has airbags.

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 6 and younger killed in crashes before their state's child restraint law 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 5 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 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2006 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.

Population and motor vehicle crash deaths by age, 2006
AgePopulationMotor vehicle crash deaths
Num%Num%
<1352,306,908171,4263
All others247,091,5768341,21697
Total299,398,48410042,642100

A total of 1,426 children died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006. This is a 7 percent decline from 2005 and a 61 percent decline from 1975. The percentage of child deaths that were male declined from 62 percent in 1975 to 53 percent in 2006.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2006
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
200583955688451,529
200675553669471,426
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventy-one percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2006 were passenger vehicle occupants, 19 percent were pedestrians, and 5 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths declined by 84 percent and 83 percent respectively, since 1975. Passenger vehicle occupant deaths among children in 2006 were 27 percent lower than in 1975.

Motor vehicle deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2006

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13, 1975-2006
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
20051,07770274187951,529
20061,01271265197551,426
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in vehicle rear seats. Twenty-one percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2006 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975. Seventy-two percent were in the rear, and the rest occurred in cargo or unknown areas.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths by seating position, 1975-2006
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
200527225710669591,077
200621221731726971,012

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children has decreased 66 percent overall since 1975. The death rate for passenger vehicle child occupants decreased 36 percent, while the death rates for child pedestrians and bicyclists declined by 86 percent and 85 percent respectively.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children, 1975-2006
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
200552,149,3951,07720.72745.3791.51,52929.3
200652,306,9081,01219.32655.1751.41,42627.3
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Age and gender

In 1975 infants (under 1 year) had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but by 2006 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 55 percent for infants, 52 percent for children ages 1-3, 26 percent for children ages 4-8, and 22 percent for children ages 9-12.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children, 1975-2006

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children, 1975-2006
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
20054,106,62711929.012,135,51724720.419,614,02441721.316,293,22729418.0
20064,130,15311227.112,265,88124920.319,809,45837518.916,101,41627617.1

The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 26 years among infants and 1-3 year olds (from 23 percent in 1985 to 65 percent in 2006). The increase has been somewhat smaller among children 4-12 (from 10 percent to 48 percent). In 2006, 70 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
AgeUnrestrainedSeat beltChild restraintTotal restrainedUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
<1856522292231241411130
1-32307118655177322237326
4-82676941117248127018385
9-1222377217002174616290
Total8057182791817315153141,131
Restraint use among fatally injured children by age, 2006
AgeUnrestrainedSeat beltChild restraintTotal restrainedUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
<12724337567787076112
1-382331771395615663114249
4-814739123336918192513610375
9-12127461214410122442710276
Total383382642628428548548181,012

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2006 was 7 percent higher for males than for females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children by gender, 2006
GenderNumber of childrenDeathsRate
Male26,755,29875528.2
Female25,551,61066926.2
Total*52,306,9081,42627.3
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-three percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (80 percent males, 19 percent females) than among child pedestrians (65 percent males, 35 percent females). There was little gender difference in fatalities among child occupants of passenger vehicles (47 percent males, 53 percent females).

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children by type and gender, 2006
 MaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
Passenger vehicle occupants47947533531,012
Pedestrians171659435265
Bicyclists6080141975
Total*75553669471,426
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When they died

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 was greater on Saturday than on other days of the week.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by day of week, 2006
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday22416
Monday21215
Tuesday19113
Wednesday15311
Thursday15211
Friday22015
Saturday27419
Total1,426100

Twenty-six percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 occurred during 3-6 pm.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by time of day, 2006
Time of dayNumber%
Midnight-3am574
3am-6am453
6am-9am1319
9am-noon17112
Noon-3pm23316
3pm-6pm37626
6pm-9pm27719
9pm-midnight1329
Total*1,426100
*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, 2006
MonthNumber%
January937
February997
March1249
April1078
May1349
June14510
July14310
August13910
September1178
October1098
November1108
December1067
Total1,426100

References