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New CDC Vital Signs: Child Passenger Safety

One in three children who died in crashes in 2011 was not buckled up, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report. CDC analyzed 2002–2011 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to determine the number and rate of motor-vehicle occupant deaths, and the percentage of child deaths among children age 12 and younger who were not buckled up. Motor vehicle crash deaths among children age 12 and younger decreased by 43 percent in the past decade (2002-2011), however, more than 9,000 children died in crashes during that period.

Research has shown that using age- and size-appropriate child restraints (car seats, booster seats, and seat belts) is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash, yet only 2 out of every 100 children live in states that require car seat or booster seat use for children age 8 and under. Almost half of all black (45 percent) and Hispanic (46 percent) children who died in crashes were not buckled up, compared to 26 percent of white children (2009-2010).

To help keep children safe on the road, parents and caregivers can:

  • Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, and seat belts in the back seat—on every trip, no matter how short.
    • Rear-facing car seat from birth up to age 2. Buckle children in a rear-facing seat until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
    • Forward-facing car seat from age 2 up to at least age 5. When children outgrow their rear-facing seat, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
    • Booster seat from age 5 up until seat belt fits properly. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat, they should be buckled in a booster seat until seat belts fit properly. The recommended height for proper seat belt fit is 57 inches tall.
    • Seat belt once it fits properly without a booster seat. Children no longer need to use a booster seat once seat belts fit them properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck).
  • Install and use car seats according to the owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Buckle children age 12 and under in the back seat.

CDC's Injury Center works to protect the safety of everyone on the roads, every day. For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety.

Graphics / Images

  • Photo:  Mother buckles her child into a front-facing car seat.

    Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the owner’s manual or get help installing them from a Child Passenger Safety Technician.

  • Photo:  Mother buckles her infant into a rear-facing car seat.

    Buckle children in a rear-facing seat until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their seat.

  • Photo: Adult buckling their seat belt.

    Buckle up on every trip, no matter how short.

  • Infographic: Motor vehicle deaths amoung children age 12 and under decreased by 43% in the past decade.

    Motor vehicle deaths among children age 12 and under decreased by 43% in the past decade.

  • Infographic: More than 9,000 children age 12 and under died in crashes in the past decade.

    More than 9,000 children age 12 and under died in crashes in the past decade.

  • Infographic: Almost half of all black (45%) and Hispanic (46%) children who died in crashes were not buckled up (2009-2010).

    Almost half of all black (45%) and Hispanic (46%) children who died in crashes were not buckled up (2009-2010).

  • Infographic: Evidence shows that state laws reultin more children being buckled up.

    Evidence shows that state laws result in more children being buckled up.
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: More of the black and Hispanic children (age 12 and under) who died in 2009-2010 were not buckled up compared with white children.

    More of the black and Hispanic children (age 12 and under) who died in 2009-2010 were not buckled up compared with white children.
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: Motor vehicle crash deaths are down, but still a leading cause of death amoung children; 2002: 2.2 children out of 100,000 deaths of children 12 and under - 2011 this number was reduced to 1.3.

    Motor vehicle crash deaths are down, but still a leading cause of death among children.
    Text Version

  • Las muertes por choques de autos han disminuido, pero todavía son una causa principal de muerte en los niños.

    Las muertes por choques de autos han disminuido, pero todavía son una causa principal de muerte en los niños.
    Ver gráfica ampliada

  • Infographic: Keep children ages 12 and under in the back seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an active air bag. 
*Recommended age ranges for each seat type vary to account for differences in child growth and height/weight limits of car seats and booster seats.
Use the car seat or booster seat owner's manual to check installation and the seat height/weight limits, and proper seat use.
Child safety seat recommendations: American Academy of Pediatrics. Graphic design: adapted from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Entire Infographic

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
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Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH

No child should die in a motor vehicle crash because they were not properly buckled up and yet, sadly, it happens hundreds of times each year in the U.S. Many of these tragedies are preventable when parents use age-and size-appropriate child restraints every time their child rides in a motor vehicle.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, PhD, MPH

Biography

Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, PhD, MP

Parents and caregivers can protect the ones they love by buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts on every trip. They can protect themselves and set a good example, by always using a seat belt. Remember buckle up everyone, every trip.

Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, PhD, MP - Team lead of the Transportation Safety Team in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention

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