Keeping Kids Safe by Buckling Up

Children still not safely restrained in vehicles despite declining death rate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many children are involved in motor vehicle crashes every year. Do you know how to keep your child safe from injury?

A recent report revealed that the number of deaths among children in car accidents has fallen over the past decade. However, many children who died in such accidents were not properly restrained.

The researchers suggested that parents and caregivers always buckle in children 12 years old and younger, learn how to use car seats and seatbelts and provide a good example by wearing their seatbelt.

"Make sure your child is always buckled up properly."

The lead author of this report was Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, PhD, from the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC used data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine the amount of motor vehicle crashes between 2002 and 2011.

From 2002-2011, the number of children who died in a motor vehicle crash decreased by 43 percent — from 2.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2002 to 1.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2011. However, the researchers found that 9,182 children aged 0 to 12 years still died in motor vehicle crashes during that time period.

More than 650 children died in a motor vehicle accident in 2011, and 33 percent of these children were not properly restrained by a seat belt, car seat or booster seat.

From 2009-2010, a total of 1,409 children died in a motor vehicle crash, for a rate of 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Black children were significantly more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than white children, at a death rate of 1.5 cases per 100,000 children in 2009-2010, compared to 1.0 case per 100,000 people for white children. The death rate of Hispanic children did not differ from that of white children.

However, only 26 percent of the white children who died in 2009-2010 were unrestrained, compared to 45 percent of the black children and 46 percent of the Hispanic children.

Overall, between 2002-2003 and 2009-2010, the proportion of unrestrained child deaths in motor vehicle accidents fell by 27 percent among white children, 16 percent among black children and 14 percent among Hispanic children.

The researchers suggested that more child safety seat laws would keep more children properly restrained and therefore at less risk for injury or death in a motor vehicle accident.

Previous studies have found that child safety seat laws decreased deaths by an average of 35 percent and increased child safety seat use by an average of 13 percent. Research has also shown that child safety seat distribution programs increased child safety seat possession by an average of 51 percent and child safety seat use by an average of 23 percent.

Dr. Sauber-Schatz and team also believe that increasing the required age for child safety seat/booster seat use in state child passenger restraint laws will be effective in increasing restraint use among older children.

Currently, Tennessee and Wyoming are the only two states with child passenger restraint laws that require car seat or booster seat use for children age 8 and under.

In the five states (including Tennessee and Wyoming) that increased the required car seat or booster seat age to at least 7 years old, car seat and booster seat use has tripled, and deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 17 percent.

The CDC suggests the following to all parents and caregivers:

  • Know how to install and use car seats, booster seats and seat belts.
  • Always buckle children age 12 and under in the back seat, no matter how long the trip may be.
  • Set a good example by always wearing your seat belt.

Dr. Sauber-Schatz and team mentioned a few limitations of their study. First, racial/ethnic information may have been misclassified because the data was taken from a database and not based on self-report. Second, the number of deaths due to being unrestrained was likely underestimated. Third, factors such as safer cars, safer car/booster seats and the economy may have contributed to the decrease in deaths among children in motor vehicle accident.

This report was released on February 4 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Review Date: 
February 5, 2014
Last Updated:
February 6, 2014