There is a huge amount of child car seat data available to the public that supports the use of age and size appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Some of the statistics overlap in their findings but the general theme and trend is the same - correct use of child car seats saves lives and reduces injuries. In this article we have compiled the overall findings from the leading studies to give you a one-stop shop for all the car seat statistics you could ever wish for. We will continue to update this page with new research and findings so that it remains up to date. Read on and brush up on your statistics!
Alarming Fatality & Injury Facts
- Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States.1
1 in 4 - the number of unintentional injury deaths of children younger than 13 caused by motor vehicle crashes10
602 - the number of children age 13 years and younger that died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in the United States during 2014. 9
57% Lower - Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths in 2014 compared to 1975. 9
Sixty-nine percent - the % of child motor vehicle crash deaths in 2014 that were passenger vehicle occupants (19 percent were pedestrians, and 4 percent were bicyclists). 9
638 - the number of children ages 12 years and younger that died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, in the United States during 2013, 4
38% - the percentage of children ages 12 years and younger who died in a crash in 2013 that were not buckled up.4
127,250 - the number of children age 12 years and younger that were injured as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in the United States during 2013.1
Car Seat Restraints Proven Effective in Research Studies
71% - the rate that car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) in passenger vehicles.2
54% - the rate that car seat use reduces the risk for death to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) in passenger vehicles.2
45% - the rate that booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone.3
1/2 - the reduction in risk of death and serious injury through seat belt use by older children and adults. 4
28% - the reduction in risk for death in children aged 2 through 6 years by using child restraints compared with seat belts, when not seriously misused (e.g, unattached restraint, child restraint system harness not used, 2 children restrained with 1 seat belt). Data adjusted for seating position, vehicle type, model year, driver and passenger ages, and driver survival status. When including cases of serious misuse, the effectiveness estimate was slightly lower (21%). 12
Car Seat Statistics for Child Restraint Use
618,000 - the number of children age 0-12 were found riding in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time, in one year in the United States.5
46% - the percentage of car and booster seats (59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats) that are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness.6,7
90% - the percentage of car seats that are NOT used properly according to the Car Seat Lady. 8
3 - the number of errors found in the installation of the average car seat seat - with the two most frequent errors being that the seat is too loosely secured to the vehicle and the child is too loosely strapped into the car seat. 8
Location of Car Seat Matters!
¾ - the reduction in fatal injury risk for children up to age 3 restrained in rear seats instead of front seats.11
Almost Half - the reduction in fatal injury risk for children ages 4 to 8 restrained in rear seats instead of front seats.11
76% - the increase in risk of serious injury of newborns to 2-year-olds in a car crash when in forward-facing car seats compared to rear-facing car seats.13
45% - the reduction in risk of moderate to serious injuries of kids between 4 and 8 in crashes when they were restrained in high-back or backless booster seats compared to lap-and-shoulder seat belts alone. This reduction in injury risk went up to 67 percent for kids in post-1998 car models. 14
20% - the reduction in risk of injury of kids up to age 4 in rear-facing seats compared to forward-facing seats. in Sweden, most kids are rear-facing until age 4, and this was the conclusion when Volvo’s insurance company analyzed the data from Swedish car crashes from 1976 to 1996. 15
43% - the reduction in risk of injury in a crash for kids riding in the middle rear seat compared to kids riding on either side. 16
Our compilation of car seat statistics provide strong evidence that correct and appropriate child car seat use improves safety by reducing risk of injury and death in children. However even with the use of child car seats the number of child fatalities and injuries as occupants of vehicles each year is still alarming. The data relating to the type and location of child car seat are also striking. The car seat statistics on rear-facing car seats backup the latest recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that kids should remain in rear-facing car seats until at least the age of two . This guidance hasn’t however been enforced by many US State laws as yet, although this is starting to happen as we reported here. The findings also support the AAP recommendation that children should ride in the back seat of vehicles until the age of thirteen.
One final point is that when considering all these studies providing car seat statistics it's important to keep in mind that that parents who use car seats may differ from parents who don’t use car seats in many ways that will affect the results. They may drive safer cars and drive more slowly, for instance, both of which could also influence injury risk. Researchers attempt to control for these confounding factors to isolate the effects of car seats themselves, but these controls are never perfect.
CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [2011 Sept 30].
Durbin, D. R. (2011). Technical report—Child passenger safety. Pediatrics, 127(4). Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0215
Arbogast KB, Jermakian JS, Kallan MJ, Durbin DR. Effectiveness of belt positioning booster seats: an updated assessment. Pediatrics 2009;124;1281–6.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts, 2013 data: occupant protection. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2015. Available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812153.pdf.
Greenspan AI, Dellinger AM, Chen J. Restraint use and seating position among children less than 13 years of age: Is it still a problem? Journal of Safety Research 2010. 41: 183-185.
Greenwall, N.K., Results of the National Child Restraint Use Special Study. May 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C. p. 66.
Greenwall, N.K., National Child Restraint Use Special Study (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note). June 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C. p. 2.
The Car Seat Lady, http://thecarseatlady.com/consumerreports2015/
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/child-safety/fatalityfacts/child-safety
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2015. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2014 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available:http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.
Durbin, D.R.; Jermakian, J.S.; Kallan, M.J.; McCartt, A.T.; Arbogast, K.B.; Zonfrillo, M.R.; and Myers, R.K. 2015. Rear seat safety: variation in protection by occupant, crash and vehicle characteristics. Accident Analysis and Prevention 80:185-92.
A 2009 study conducted as part of Partners for Child Passenger Safety http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/5/1281.long
Analysis of data from Swedish car crashes from 1976 to 1996. http://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b1994