Fatality Facts 2017Children

Overview

Deaths of children younger than 13 in motor vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, but crashes still cause 1 of every 4 unintentional injury deaths. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2018. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2016 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. Most crash deaths occur among children traveling as passenger vehicle occupants, and proper restraint use can reduce these fatalities. Restraining children in rear seats instead of front seats reduces fatal injury risk by about three-quarters for children up to age 3, and almost half for children ages 4 to 8. 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.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws on the books. However, even though more children now ride restrained because of these laws, many children, particularly those 4 and older, still ride unrestrained. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2018. The 2017 national survey of the use of booster seats. Report no. DOT HS-812-617. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.Eighteen states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear, but there is considerable variation among the laws based on the child's age, height, weight and whether the vehicle has frontal airbags. The District of Columbia and all states except Oklahoma require all child occupants younger than 13, including those sitting in the rear, to be restrained.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Posted December 2018.

Age and gender

In 1975 infants (younger than 1) had a much higher passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate per capita than children of other ages, but this gap narrowed over the years. Since 1975 fatality rates dropped 68 percent for infants, 66 percent for children ages 1-3, 52 percent for children ages 4-8, and 50 percent for children ages 9-12.

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2017

Passenger vehicle child occupant deaths per million children by age, 1975-2017
Year<1 year1-3 years4-8 years9-12 years
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRate
1975 3,152,345 190 60.3 9,333,943 395 42.3 17,579,867 451 25.7 15,785,149 348 22.0
1976 3,115,391 173 55.5 9,166,175 393 42.9 17,444,438 436 25.0 15,274,700 341 22.3
1977 3,278,804 188 57.3 9,129,735 412 45.1 17,194,329 459 26.7 14,734,464 346 23.5
1978 3,326,388 192 57.7 9,317,815 406 43.6 16,838,903 455 27.0 14,424,361 342 23.7
1979 3,426,309 171 49.9 9,461,992 384 40.6 16,465,482 473 28.7 14,425,176 303 21.0
1980 3,559,861 190 53.4 9,763,803 396 40.6 15,994,363 403 25.2 14,596,315 342 23.4
1981 3,607,455 172 47.7 10,011,438 332 33.2 15,894,690 401 25.2 14,536,357 284 19.5
1982 3,643,586 164 45.0 10,287,129 352 34.2 15,997,832 365 22.8 14,203,049 277 19.5
1983 3,649,198 157 43.0 10,499,379 353 33.6 16,268,975 372 22.9 13,701,745 252 18.4
1984 3,571,921 132 37.0 10,605,208 301 28.4 16,592,564 377 22.7 13,208,351 271 20.5
1985 3,678,657 130 35.3 10,594,540 326 30.8 17,015,987 385 22.6 12,970,952 290 22.4
1986 3,699,568 130 35.1 10,653,722 360 33.8 17,338,168 409 23.6 13,063,996 289 22.1
1987 3,703,294 160 43.2 10,725,924 387 36.1 17,651,459 467 26.5 13,267,570 298 22.5
1988 3,756,541 183 48.7 10,882,631 385 35.4 17,801,235 484 27.2 13,502,559 302 22.4
1989 3,858,435 183 47.4 10,981,085 402 36.6 17,938,226 526 29.3 13,912,858 358 25.7
1990 3,987,662 162 40.6 11,168,053 343 30.7 18,082,010 447 24.7 14,234,802 316 22.2
1991 4,009,515 143 35.7 11,468,844 339 29.6 18,154,546 442 24.3 14,607,842 310 21.2
1992 3,982,857 127 31.9 11,739,325 349 29.7 18,296,744 442 24.2 14,884,742 315 21.2
1993 3,908,335 152 38.9 11,898,416 361 30.3 18,612,278 431 23.2 14,916,835 277 18.6
1994 3,854,882 160 41.5 11,821,298 379 32.1 18,958,858 486 25.6 15,057,424 319 21.2
1995 3,813,169 153 40.1 11,668,778 346 29.7 19,309,487 484 25.1 15,129,050 356 23.5
1996 3,769,544 178 47.2 11,499,426 346 30.1 19,610,009 486 24.8 15,206,209 336 22.1
1997 3,779,543 133 35.2 11,371,094 327 28.8 19,788,553 502 25.4 15,425,793 368 23.9
1998 3,790,645 138 36.4 11,301,476 304 26.9 19,814,280 512 25.8 15,621,075 379 24.3
1999 3,819,903 142 37.2 11,269,665 310 27.5 19,629,729 497 25.3 15,947,842 362 22.7
2000 3,867,754 131 33.9 11,425,866 311 27.2 20,146,324 458 22.7 16,779,479 364 21.7
2001 4,025,873 106 26.3 11,497,211 290 25.2 19,875,164 450 22.6 16,943,147 333 19.7
2002 3,984,989 107 26.9 11,733,679 272 23.2 19,662,203 405 20.6 16,951,435 347 20.5
2003 4,033,482 120 29.8 11,922,039 265 22.2 19,522,343 401 20.5 16,709,738 328 19.6
2004 4,077,188 121 29.7 12,086,916 301 24.9 19,473,829 406 20.8 16,513,473 345 20.9
2005 4,106,627 119 29.0 12,135,517 247 20.4 19,614,024 417 21.3 16,293,227 294 18.0
2006 4,130,153 115 27.8 12,265,881 247 20.1 19,809,458 375 18.9 16,101,416 276 17.1
2007 4,257,020 96 22.6 12,403,983 225 18.1 20,011,375 335 16.7 15,913,431 249 15.6
2008 4,313,132 78 18.1 12,568,765 163 13.0 20,289,522 269 13.3 15,758,360 189 12.0
2009 4,261,494 69 16.2 12,857,476 180 14.0 20,780,673 288 13.9 15,853,769 219 13.8
2010 3,944,153 59 15.0 12,194,039 178 14.6 20,263,474 256 12.6 16,541,552 160 9.7
2011 3,996,537 59 14.8 12,043,067 157 13.0 20,421,665 252 12.3 16,488,839 188 11.4
2012 3,943,077 54 13.7 11,943,920 191 16.0 20,523,946 237 11.5 16,461,629 159 9.7
2013 3,941,783 49 12.4 11,934,615 162 13.6 20,458,936 250 12.2 16,388,386 179 10.9
2014 3,948,350 47 11.9 11,925,085 135 11.3 20,416,182 249 12.2 16,376,512 173 10.6
2015 3,978,038 50 12.6 11,909,208 173 14.5 20,373,647 256 12.6 16,486,202 189 11.5
2016 3,955,377 63 15.9 11,976,334 178 14.9 20,238,765 284 14.0 16,597,194 205 12.4
2017 3,939,295 77 19.5 12,003,782 170 14.2 20,127,850 248 12.3 16,668,005 182 10.9

In 2017, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for the majority of motor vehicle crash deaths for all age groups of children. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 2 percent of crash deaths for children younger than 1, 27 percent for ages 1-3, 15 percent for ages 4-8, and 18 percent for ages 9-12. Children ages 9-12 had the largest percentage of bicycle (6 percent) and all-terrain vehicle (4 percent) fatalities.

Child motor vehicle crash deaths by type and age, 2017
AgePassenger vehicle occupantsMotorcyclists Pedestrians Bicyclists All-terrain vehicle riders Other Total motor vehicle deaths*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 77 95 00 2 2 00 00 2 2 81 100
1-3 170 68 00 68 27 3 1 1 0 9 4 251 100
4-8 248 75 3 1 51 15 12 4 3 1 14 4 331 100
9-12 182 66 4 1 49 18 16 6 10 4 15 5 276 100
Total* 677 72 7 1 170 18 31 3 14 1 40 4 939 100

The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children in 2017 was 21 percent higher for males than for females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 by gender, 2017
GenderNumber of childrenDeathsRate
Male 26,944,870 524 19.4
Female 25,794,062 415 16.1
Total* 52,738,932 939 17.8

Fifty-six percent of children younger than 13 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were male. The gender difference in fatalities was greater among child bicyclists (81 percent males, 19 percent females) than among child pedestrians (59 percent males, 41 percent females). More males (52 percent) than females (48 percent) were killed as occupants of passenger vehicles.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by type and gender, 2017
Male Female Total*
Number%Number%Number%
Passenger vehicle occupants 353 52 324 48 677 100
Pedestrians 101 59 69 41 170 100
Bicyclists 25 81 6 19 31 100
Total* 524 56 415 44 939 100

Restraint use

The proportion of fatally injured children who are restrained has risen greatly during the past 32 years, from 15 percent in 1985 to 58 percent in 2017. According to a national observational survey, restraint use among children younger than 13 years was 90.1 percent in 2017.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2018. The 2017 national survey of the use of booster seats. Report no. DOT HS-812-617. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.Unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash, so restraint use is much lower among fatally injured occupants.

Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 1985
AgeUnrestrained Seat belt Child safety seat Total restrained Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 85 65 2 2 29 22 31 24 14 11 130 100
1-3 230 71 18 6 55 17 73 22 23 7 326 100
4-8 267 69 41 11 7 2 48 12 70 18 385 100
9-12 223 77 21 700 21 7 46 16 290 100
Total 805 71 82 7 91 8 173 15 153 14 1,131 100
Restraint use among fatally injured children in passenger vehicles by age, 2017
AgeUnrestrained Seat belt Child safety seat Total restrained Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
<1 18 23 1 1 52 68 53 69 6 8 77 100
1-3 32 19 11 6 116 68 127 75 11 6 170 100
4-8 79 32 63 25 75 30 138 56 31 12 248 100
9-12 89 49 73 40 1 1 74 41 19 10 182 100
Total 218 32 148 22 244 36 392 58 67 10 677 100

When they died

More children were killed in motor vehicle crashes on Saturdays in 2017 (17 percent) than on any other day of the week.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by day of week, 2017
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday 138 15
Monday 132 14
Tuesday 121 13
Wednesday 116 12
Thursday 135 14
Friday 136 14
Saturday 161 17
Total 939 100

Twenty-six percent of the deaths of children in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 19 percent occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by time of day, 2017
Time of dayNumber%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 34 4
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 32 3
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 98 10
9 a.m. - noon 93 10
Noon - 3 p.m. 142 15
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 244 26
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 177 19
9 p.m. - midnight 116 12
Total* 939 100

The proportion of children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 was greater during the months of May and July (10 percent each month) compared with other months of the year.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among children younger than 13 by month, 2017
MonthNumber%
January 64 7
February 71 8
March 89 9
April 72 8
May 91 10
June 85 9
July 98 10
August 75 8
September 69 7
October 76 8
November 65 7
December 84 9
Total 939 100