Child Car Seat Use: What the Statistics Show

In addition to driving responsibly, the most important thing you can do for your child’s safety in the car is to buckle them into an age-appropriate, correctly installed car seat. In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children aged 3 to 14. Every day, an average of two children below the age of 13 die in car crashes. 36 percent of those children are unrestrained, whereas others may have been in a car seat or seat belt but were not properly buckled up.

How Effective are Car Seats?

Child car seats have been proven to reduce fatal injuries by 71% for infants aged one and under, and 54% for children aged one to four years. In 2017, car seats saved the lives of 325 small children. In the same year, children in car seats were more than twice as likely to survive a crash if they were properly fastened. Additionally, in 2021, 1,184 children aged 14 and below died in car accidents in the United States. In comparison, 2019 saw 1,053 deaths. During 2021, 711 children died between the ages of one and twelve, with 36% of those who died in a crash were not buckled up.

Every day, 445 children are injured and three are killed in car crashes in the United States. In 2021, an estimated 162,298 children were injured in car crashes, a 17% rise from 139,058 the previous year. In 2021, 40% of passenger vehicle child occupants died in fatal crashes were unrestrained. Furthermore, restraint use among drivers influenced restraint use among children occupants died in traffic crashes. According to NHTSA, when drivers were restrained, 74% of child occupants were restrained. When the driver was unrestrained, 69 % of the child passengers were likewise unrestrained.

Using the Correct Child Restraint

Just over 25% of children aged 4 to 7 are incorrectly buckled in motor vehicles. Of those, 16.1% are fastened just by a seatbelt, while 10.6% are entirely unfastened. Seat belts are excellent in protecting older children and adults, however they are ineffective for protecting children under the age of 12. Using a car seat reduces a child’s risk of injury after an accident by more than 70% when compared to using a seat belt alone. Moreover, all 50 states have laws mandating children to be restrained when riding in cars. This happens in three stages including, rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. First-time violations of a state’s child passenger safety legislation can result in fines ranging from $10 to $500. Some states use driver’s license points as a further penalty for violation.

46% of car seats are not used properly, indicating widespread misuse. The most prevalent form of misuse includes using the wrong seat for the child’s age and weight, a loose safety belt attachment to the car seat, and loose harness straps on the child. 73 percent of forward-facing car seats are installed incorrectly. According to an NHTSA research, misuse rates for forward-facing car seats were 61%, 49% for rear-facing infant car seats, 44% for rear-facing convertible car seats, 24% for backless booster seats, and 16% for high back booster seats. The misuse of belt-positioning boosters is also common. The misuse rate for backless boosters is 24%, while for high back boosters is 16%.


Studies in recent years have shown disparities in car seat use. A 2021 study showed White Americans are more likely to use appropriate child restraints than Black and Hispanic parents. Continuing education among these minority groups may be necessary. In 2020, 17% of US car accident fatalities were Latino victims. Seatbelts and child car seats are a proven method of saving lives on our roads.

Your dedication to safe driving through the usage of child car seats will benefit you and the entire family. And, as parents, following safety measures when driving will convey a positive message and set a good example for your children that safe driving is ‘cool’ driving.


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