Children | 2008

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. 2006. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. and are the leading cause of death. Most crash deaths occur among children traveling as passenger vehicle occupants, and proper restraint use can reduce these fatalities. Placing children 12 and younger in rear seats instead of front seats reduces fatal injury risk by about a third. Braver, E.R.; Whitfield, R.A.; 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 safety seat 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 2009. Child restraint use in 2008 – demographic results. Traffic Safety Facts, Research Note. Report no. DOT HS-811-148. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Sixteen 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, and weight, and if the vehicle has airbags.

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

Trends

A total of 1,045 children died in motor vehicle crashes in 2008. This is an 18 percent decline from 2008 and a 71 percent decline from 1975. The percentage of child deaths who were male declined from 62 percent in 1975 to 58 percent in 2008.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by gender, 1975-2008
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
200675753673471,430
200768754582461,269
200860858435421,045
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Children younger than 13 represented 17 percent of the US population in 2008 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.

Population and motor vehicle crash deaths by age, 2008
AgePopulationMotor vehicle crash deaths
Num%Num%
< 1352,929,779171,0453
All others251,129,9458336,21697
Total304,059,72410037,261100

Sixty-seven percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2008 were passenger vehicle occupants, 21 percent were pedestrians, and 5 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths each declined by 87 percent since 1975. Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2008 were 50 percent lower than in 1975.

Motor vehicle deaths among children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2008

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2008
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
20061,01371267197651,430
200790571243195741,269
200869767216215751,045
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2008, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for the largest percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths for all children through age 12. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 4 percent of crash deaths for children under 1 year, 29 percent for ages 1 to 3, 20 percent for ages 4 to 8, and 19 percent for ages 9 to 12. Older children, ages 9 to 12 years, had the largest relative percentage of bicycle, all-terrain vehicle, and motorcycle fatalities, with 10 percent, 4 percent, and 2 percent, respectively.

Child motor vehicle crash deaths by type and age, 2008
 Passenger vehicle occupantsMotorcyclistsPedestriansBicyclistsAll-terrain vehicle ridersOtherTotal motor vehicle deaths*
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 17792003400004584
1-316366007229212183247
4-82696800802022682154394
9-12188598261193310144165320
Total*6976781216215752424341,045
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 has decreased 75 percent overall since 1975. The death rate for passenger vehicle child occupants decreased 56 percent, while the death rates for child pedestrians and bicyclists declined by 88 percent and 89 percent, respectively.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2008
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
200652,306,9081,01319.42675.1761.51,43027.3
200752,585,80990517.22434.6571.11,26924.1
200852,929,77969713.22164.1571.11,04519.7
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in vehicle rear seats. Nineteen percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2008 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975. Seventy-three percent were in the rear, and the rest occurred in cargo or unknown areas.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths among children younger than 13 by seating position, 1975-2008
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
200621421731726871,013
20071711967374617905
20081311951173558697

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 2008 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975, fatality rates dropped 70 percent for infants, 69 percent for children ages 1-3, 48 percent for children ages 4-8, and 46 percent for children ages 9-12.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2008

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2008
Year< 1 years oldages 1-3ages 4-8ages 9-12
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
20064,130,15311527.812,265,88124720.119,809,45837518.916,101,41627617.1
20074,257,0209622.612,403,98322518.120,011,37533516.715,913,43124915.6
20084,313,1327717.912,568,76516313.020,289,52226913.315,758,36018811.9

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2008 was 34 percent higher for males than for females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 by gender, 2008
GenderNumber of childrenDeathsRate
Male27,071,74260822.5
Female25,858,03743516.8
Total*52,929,7791,04519.7
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-eight percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (68 percent males, 32 percent females) than among child pedestrians (62 percent males, 37 percent females). The smallest gender difference in fatalities was among child occupants of passenger vehicles (55 percent males, 45 percent females).

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by type and gender, 2008
 MaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
Passenger vehicle occupants3835531445697
Pedestrians135628037216
Bicyclists3968183257
Total*60858435421,045
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Restraint use

The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 23 years, from 15 percent in 1985 to 50 percent in 2008. 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 (47 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 62 percent. In 2008, the percentage of fatally injured children who were in child safety seats was 58 percent for infants, 42 percent for ages 1-3, and 18 percent for ages 4-8.

Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 1985
AgeUnrestrainedSeat beltChild safety seatTotal restrainedUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 1 years old856522292231241411130
ages 1-32307118655177322237326
ages 4-82676941117248127018385
ages 9-1222377217002174616290
Total8057182791817315153141,131
Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 2008
AgeUnrestrainedSeat beltChild safety seatTotal restrainedUnknownOtherTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
< 1 years old182345455849642381077
ages 1-3563414969428351138117163
ages 4-8105398030491812948249114269
ages 9-128847854542894711600188
Total26738183261672435050507304697

When they died

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 was larger on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, compared with other days of the week.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by day of week, 2008
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday17417
Monday13313
Tuesday11711
Wednesday11411
Thursday13513
Friday18918
Saturday18318
Total1,045100

Twenty-four percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 occurred during 3-6 pm.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by time of day, 2008
Time of dayNumber%
Midnight-3am485
3am-6am323
6am-9am10210
9am-noon11111
Noon-3pm16015
3pm-6pm24624
6pm-9pm22722
9pm-midnight11611
Total*1,045100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 was greatest during the months of May, June and July.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by month, 2008
MonthNumber%
January737
February697
March838
April767
May10710
June11211
July10110
August899
September828
October888
November919
December747
Total1,045100

References