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 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).
Children younger than 13 represented 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2006 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2006 was 7 percent higher for males than for females.
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).
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 was greater on Saturday than on other days of the week.
Twenty-six percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 occurred during 3-6 pm.
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes was greater during June-August than during other months.
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