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 4 injury deaths among children younger than 13, and remain a leading cause of death.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2012. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2010 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.
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. 2010. The 2009 national survey of the use of booster seats. Report no. DOT HS-811-377. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Seventeen 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, weight and if the vehicle has rear seats or frontal airbags.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Sixty-eight percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2010 were passenger vehicle occupants, 22 percent were pedestrians, and 4 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths declined by 87 and 92 percent, respectively, since 1975. Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2010 were 53 percent lower than in 1975.
Motor vehicle deaths among children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2010
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 has decreased 77 percent overall since 1975. The death rate for passenger vehicle child occupants decreased 59 percent, while the death rates for child pedestrians and bicyclists declined by 89 and 93 percent, respectively.
It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in vehicle rear seats. Seventeen percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2010 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975. Seventy-five percent were in the rear, and the rest occurred in cargo or unknown areas.
Children younger than 13 represented 17 percent of the US population in 2010 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.
In 1975 infants (under 1 year) had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but by 2010 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 75 percent for infants, 66 percent for children ages 1-3, 50 percent for children ages 4-8, and 56 percent for children ages 9-12.
Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2010
In 2010, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for the majority of motor vehicle crash deaths for all age groups of children. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 5 percent of crash deaths for children younger than 1, 28 percent for ages 1 to 3, 20 percent for ages 4 to 8, and 22 percent for ages 9 to 12. Older children, ages 9 to 12, had the largest relative percentage of bicycle and all-terrain vehicle fatalities, with 9 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2010 was 32 percent higher for males than for females.
Fifty-eight percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (69 percent males, 31 percent females) than among child pedestrians (62 percent males, 38 percent females). The smallest gender difference in fatalities was among child occupants of passenger vehicles (55 percent males, 45 percent females).
The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 25 years, from 15 percent in 1985 to 59 percent in 2010.
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was larger on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, compared with other days of the week.
Twenty-six percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 occurred during 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was greatest during the months of August and September.
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