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Child Passengers at Risk in America

The Facts:

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. Each year, nearly 1,800 children 14 and under, die in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 274,000 children are injured. Riding unrestrained is the greatest risk factor for death and injury among child occupants of motor vehicles. Children who are not restrained are far more likely to suffer severe injuries or even death in motor vehicle crashes. Yet approximately 30 percent of children ages 4 and under ride unrestrained, and of those who do buckle up, 4 out of 5 children are improperly secured. Only 5 percent of 4 to 8-year-olds ride in booster seats.

Child Restraint

What You Can Do:

A Quick Guide to Child Safety Restraints

(National SAFEKIDS Campaign 1-800-441-1888)

  1. Infants should ride in rear-facing safety seats as long as possible (until the child is at least 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds).
  2. Kids over 1 year old who weigh 20?40 pounds should ride in forward-facing child safety seats (if they can no longer ride rear-facing).
  3. Kids over 40 pounds must use booster seats or other appropriate child restraints until adult safety belts fit correctly (around age 8).
  4. When safety belts fit children correctly (usually around age 8), the lap and shoulder belt should both be used.

Before You Hit the Road, Read This

(Information from SAFE KIDS BUCKLE UP flyer)

  • NEVER put a rear-facing child in a front seat with an active frontal air bag. A back seat is generally the safest place for kids of any age.
  • Choose the right child safety seat or safety belt for you child?s size and age.
  • Send in the child safety seat registration card to be notified in case it is recalled. If you have questions about recalls, call the manufacturer, visit, or call


  • Use the correct child safety belt path or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system.
  • Check your vehicle and child safety seat instructions to see how to lock your child safety seat in place and if you need any special installation hardware.
  • Get a tight fit?an installed child safety seat should not move more than one inch from side to side or toward the front of the vehicle.
  • Make sure your child is snuggly secured by the safety seat harnesses or safety belt, according to manufacturer?s instructions.Keep harness straps snug and flat. Fasten the harness clip at armpit level.
  • Replace any child safety seat that has been involved in a serious crash.
  • Be certain that everyone in the car is correctly buckled, even on short trips.

What We Are Doing:

SAFE KIDS coalitions across the country have launched child safety seat inspection stations. The inspection stations will offer parents and caregivers personal instruction from certified technicians on the proper use and installation of child safety seats. They will also offer set hours of operation, so parents and caregivers can plan their schedules accordingly. For more information, contact a SAFE KIDS coalition near you.

Click here for FAQ’s about car safety.

Adapted from information prepared by the Rainbow Community Safety & Resource Center, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

Sources: National SAFEKIDS Campaign, SAFE KIDS BUCKLE UP, National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions

For more information:

Go to the Children’s Health health topic.