Children's Health and Wellness
April 2014

Safety Restraints Save Children’s Lives

Your car can be a dangerous place for your child. More children die from motor vehicle accidents than from any other type of mishap. The latest statistics show such incidents are declining. But many more could be prevented with proper safety restraints.

Somber statistics

In a recent government report, researchers looked at the latest national data on deaths from motor vehicle accidents. They specifically looked at child deaths between 2002 and 2011. They broke down their findings into 4 age groups: younger than age 1, ages 1 to 3, 4 to 7, and 8 to 12.

Across all age groups, researchers noted a 43% drop in the number of children killed in car accidents. Yet, more than 9,000 children still died—more than one-third of them needlessly. Why? They weren’t wearing any type of safety restraint.

Car seat guidelines

By simply using a car safety seat, experts estimate the risk of death falls by 71% for infants and about 50% for children ages 2 and up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a car safety seat until the child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat. After a child has outgrown a forward-facing car seat, he or she should be restrained in a belt-positioning booster seat until the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and is at least 8 years old. All states also require car seats. But their upper age limits may differ.

The type of car safety seat you should use depends on your child’s age and size. In general, follow these guidelines to ensure your child is secure in your vehicle:

  • Use rear-facing car safety seats for infants and toddlers up to age 2, or until they reach the manufacturer’s weight and height limits. Remember: Children up to age 13 should always ride in the backseat.

  • Switch to a forward-facing car seat with a harness for children ages 2 and up. Your child should stick with this type of safety restraint until he or she outgrows the manufacturer’s limits.

  • Choose a booster seat for children too big for a forward-facing seat. A booster seat raises up your child, so he or she can properly wear a seatbelt. They are generally good for children until they are 8 to 12 years old, depending on the child’s height.

  • Buckle up your older children with the vehicle’s seatbelt. Make sure the safety restraint rests on the upper thighs and stretches across the shoulder and middle of the chest. It shouldn’t be used if it crosses the neck.


Choosing a Car Safety Seat

You have a lot to choose from when buying a car safety seat! These tips may help:

  • Choose the car safety seat that best fits your child and your vehicle. The most expensive one isn’t always worth the price.

  • Stay away from older models, especially if they have cracks or missing parts.

  • Always look for a manufacturer’s model number. You can then check if the product has been recalled.

  • Make sure the car safety seat comes with instructions. It’s important to properly install the seat every time your child uses it.

Need help installing a car safety seat? Call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's hotline at 888-327-4236. Or visit it online


Print Source: Child Passenger Safety. D. Durbin and Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):e1050-e1066.
Print Source: Vital Signs: Restraint Use and Motor Vehicle Occupant Death Rates Among Children Aged 0-12 Years—United States, 2002-2011. E.K. Sauber-Schatz, B.A. West, and G. Bergen. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2014;63(5):113-8.
Online Source: 10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths, United States – 2010, CDC, Accessed February 28, 2014
Online Source: Child Passenger Safety: Fact Sheet, CDC, 2014
Online Source: Vital Signs: Child Passenger Safety, CDC, 2014
Online Source: Car Seats: Information for Families for 2014, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014
Online Source: A Parent’s Guide to Playing It Safe with Kids and Cars, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013
Online Source: Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 Data, Children, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2013
Author: Semko, Laura
Online Editor: Sinovic, Dianna
Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 3/21/2014
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