Children | 2012

Child deaths in motor vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, but crashes still cause about 1 of every 4 unintentional injury deaths among children younger than 13. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2013. 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 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. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013. The 2011 national survey of the use of booster seats. Report no. DOT HS-811-718. Washington, DC: U.S. 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 whether 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).

Trends

Sixty-seven percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2012 were passenger vehicle occupants, 22 percent were pedestrians, and 4 percent were bicyclists. Child pedestrian and bicyclist deaths declined by 87 and 91 percent, respectively, since 1975. Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2012 were 54 percent lower than in 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2012
YearPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestrians Bicyclists Total*
Number%Number%Number%Number%
1975 1,384 38 1,632 45 446 12 3,643 100
1976 1,343 39 1,522 44 394 12 3,424 100
1977 1,405 42 1,390 42 395 12 3,347 100
1978 1,395 41 1,419 42 387 11 3,367 100
1979 1,331 42 1,291 41 362 11 3,171 100
1980 1,331 44 1,183 39 346 11 3,048 100
1981 1,189 44 1,064 39 332 12 2,733 100
1982 1,158 45 986 38 265 10 2,573 100
1983 1,134 45 944 37 298 12 2,518 100
1984 1,081 45 935 39 253 10 2,422 100
1985 1,131 46 925 37 278 11 2,469 100
1986 1,188 47 913 36 293 12 2,537 100
1987 1,312 49 898 34 297 11 2,654 100
1988 1,354 50 905 34 284 11 2,701 100
1989 1,469 55 786 30 276 10 2,658 100
1990 1,268 54 768 33 185 8 2,332 100
1991 1,234 55 695 31 226 10 2,257 100
1992 1,233 57 635 29 215 10 2,165 100
1993 1,221 56 644 30 203 9 2,164 100
1994 1,344 58 659 29 205 9 2,301 100
1995 1,339 61 597 27 197 9 2,201 100
1996 1,346 62 570 26 164 8 2,186 100
1997 1,330 63 513 24 172 8 2,108 100
1998 1,333 66 464 23 152 7 2,032 100
1999 1,311 66 449 22 141 7 1,997 100
2000 1,264 67 403 21 136 7 1,888 100
2001 1,179 67 363 21 98 6 1,751 100
2002 1,131 70 317 20 92 6 1,617 100
2003 1,114 68 327 20 93 6 1,643 100
2004 1,173 71 293 18 82 5 1,645 100
2005 1,077 70 274 18 79 5 1,529 100
2006 1,013 71 267 19 76 5 1,430 100
2007 905 71 243 19 57 4 1,269 100
2008 699 67 215 21 57 5 1,047 100
2009 756 71 201 19 52 5 1,066 100
2010 653 68 212 22 36 4 962 100
2011 656 72 169 19 39 4 908 100
2012 640 67 206 22 39 4 952 100

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 has decreased 77 percent overall since 1975. The rate at which children die as passenger vehicle child occupants decreased 60 percent, while the rates at which they are killed as pedestrians and bicyclists declined by 89 and 92 percent, respectively.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 by type, 1975-2012
YearPopulationPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestrians Bicyclists Total*
DeathsRateDeathsRateDeathsRateDeathsRate
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 1,077 20.7 274 5.3 79 1.5 1,529 29.3
2006 52,306,908 1,013 19.4 267 5.1 76 1.5 1,430 27.3
2007 52,585,809 905 17.2 243 4.6 57 1.1 1,269 24.1
2008 52,929,779 699 13.2 215 4.1 57 1.1 1,047 19.8
2009 53,753,412 756 14.1 201 3.7 52 1.0 1,066 19.8
2010 52,943,218 653 12.3 212 4.0 36 <1 962 18.2
2011 52,950,108 656 12.4 169 3.2 39 <1 908 17.1
2012 52,872,572 640 12.1 206 3.9 39 <1 952 18.0

It is recommended that children 12 and younger ride in the rear seats of vehicles. Fourteen percent of the passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2012 occurred in front seats, down from 46 percent in 1975. Seventy-eight 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, 1975-2012
YearFront seat Rear seat Cargo/unknown areaTotal
Number%Number%Number%Number%
1975 634 46 367 27 383 28 1,384 100
1976 563 42 423 31 357 27 1,343 100
1977 654 47 383 27 368 26 1,405 100
1978 676 48 394 28 325 23 1,395 100
1979 635 48 394 30 302 23 1,331 100
1980 661 50 374 28 296 22 1,331 100
1981 547 46 406 34 236 20 1,189 100
1982 570 49 421 36 167 14 1,158 100
1983 548 48 420 37 166 15 1,134 100
1984 523 48 394 36 164 15 1,081 100
1985 515 46 428 38 188 17 1,131 100
1986 550 46 486 41 152 13 1,188 100
1987 582 44 571 44 159 12 1,312 100
1988 604 45 575 42 175 13 1,354 100
1989 637 43 655 45 177 12 1,469 100
1990 542 43 548 43 178 14 1,268 100
1991 538 44 558 45 138 11 1,234 100
1992 514 42 602 49 117 9 1,233 100
1993 509 42 613 50 99 8 1,221 100
1994 543 40 631 47 170 13 1,344 100
1995 558 42 627 47 154 12 1,339 100
1996 558 41 654 49 134 10 1,346 100
1997 493 37 692 52 145 11 1,330 100
1998 463 35 729 55 141 11 1,333 100
1999 438 33 744 57 129 10 1,311 100
2000 382 30 752 59 130 10 1,264 100
2001 368 31 707 60 104 9 1,179 100
2002 326 29 693 61 112 10 1,131 100
2003 300 27 716 64 98 9 1,114 100
2004 292 25 793 68 88 8 1,173 100
2005 272 25 710 66 95 9 1,077 100
2006 214 21 731 72 68 7 1,013 100
2007 171 19 673 74 61 7 905 100
2008 131 19 512 73 56 8 699 100
2009 138 18 546 72 72 10 756 100
2010 110 17 494 76 49 8 653 100
2011 118 18 486 74 52 8 656 100
2012 91 14 497 78 52 8 640 100

Children younger than 13 represented 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2012 and 3 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.

Population and motor vehicle crash deaths by age, 2012
AgePopulationMotor vehicle crash deaths
Number%Number%
<13 52,872,572 17 952 3
All others 261,041,468 83 32,609 97
Total 313,914,040 100 33,561 100

Age and gender

In 1975 infants (younger than 1) had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but by 2012 the age gap had narrowed considerably. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 78 percent for infants, 62 percent for children ages 1-3, 55 percent for children ages 4-8, and 56 percent for children ages 9-12.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2012
Year<1 year1-3 years4-8 years9-12 years
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRate
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 4,106,627 119 29.0 12,135,517 247 20.4 19,614,024 417 21.3 16,293,227 294 18.0
2006 4,130,153 115 27.8 12,265,881 247 20.1 19,809,458 375 18.9 16,101,416 276 17.1
2007 4,257,020 96 22.6 12,403,983 225 18.1 20,011,375 335 16.7 15,913,431 249 15.6
2008 4,313,132 78 18.1 12,568,765 163 13.0 20,289,522 269 13.3 15,758,360 189 12.0
2009 4,261,494 69 16.2 12,857,476 180 14.0 20,780,673 288 13.9 15,853,769 219 13.8
2010 3,944,153 59 15.0 12,194,039 178 14.6 20,263,474 256 12.6 16,541,552 160 9.7
2011 3,996,537 59 14.8 12,043,067 157 13.0 20,421,665 252 12.3 16,488,839 188 11.4
2012 3,943,077 53 13.4 11,943,920 191 16.0 20,523,946 236 11.5 16,461,629 160 9.7

In 2012, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for the majority of motor vehicle crash deaths for all age groups of children. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 3 percent of crash deaths for children younger than 1, 24 percent for ages 1-3, 23 percent for ages 4-8, and 22 percent for ages 9-12.  Children ages 9-12 had the largest relative percentage of bicycle and all terrain vehicle fatalities, at 9 and 3 percent, respectively.

Child motor vehicle crash deaths by type and age, 2012
AgePassenger vehicle occupantsMotorcyclists Pedestrians Bicyclists All-terrain vehicle riders Other Total motor vehicle deaths*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 53 88 00 2 3 00 00 5 8 60 100
1-3 191 71 1 0 63 24 00 1 0 12 4 268 100
4-8 236 67 1 0 82 23 15 4 5 1 15 4 354 100
9-12 160 59 2 1 59 22 24 9 8 3 17 6 270 100
Total* 640 67 4 0 206 22 39 4 14 1 49 5 952 100

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2012 was 20 percent higher for males than for females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 by gender, 2012
GenderNumber of childrenDeathsRate
Male 27,010,635 530 19.6
Female 25,861,937 422 16.3
Total* 52,872,572 952 18.0

Fifty-six percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (79 percent males, 21 percent females) than among child pedestrians (58 percent males, 42 percent females) and among child occupants of passenger vehicles (53 percent males, 47 percent females).

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by type and gender, 2012
Male Female Total*
Number%Number%Number%
Passenger vehicle occupants 338 53 302 47 640 100
Pedestrians 120 58 86 42 206 100
Bicyclists 31 79 8 21 39 100
Total* 530 56 422 44 952 100

Restraint use

The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 27 years, from 15 percent in 1985 to 57 percent in 2012. 

Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 1985
AgeUnrestrained Safety belt Child safety seat Total restrained Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 85 65 2 2 29 22 31 24 14 11 130 100
1-3 230 71 18 6 55 17 73 22 23 7 326 100
4-8 267 69 41 11 7 2 48 12 70 18 385 100
9-12 223 77 21 700 21 7 46 16 290 100
Total 805 71 82 7 91 8 173 15 153 14 1,131 100
Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 2012
AgeUnrestrained Safety belt Child safety seat Total restrained Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 15 28 2 4 34 64 36 68 2 4 53 100
1-3 56 29 9 5 115 60 124 65 11 6 191 100
4-8 86 36 56 24 72 31 128 54 22 9 236 100
9-12 63 39 73 46 3 2 76 48 21 13 160 100
Total 220 34 140 22 224 35 364 57 56 9 640 100

When they died

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012 was largest on Sunday compared with other days of the week.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by day of week, 2012
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday 181 19
Monday 125 13
Tuesday 116 12
Wednesday 122 13
Thursday 94 10
Friday 148 16
Saturday 166 17
Total 952 100

Twenty-four percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2012 occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by time of day, 2012
Time of dayNumber%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 50 5
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 28 3
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 94 10
9 a.m. - noon 97 10
Noon - 3 p.m. 165 17
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 228 24
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 191 20
9 p.m. - midnight 96 10
Total* 952 100

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012 was greatest during the months of May and July.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by month, 2012
MonthNumber%
January 58 6
February 64 7
March 87 9
April 74 8
May 102 11
June 86 9
July 104 11
August 78 8
September 75 8
October 72 8
November 75 8
December 77 8
Total 952 100

References