Throughout the United States, many people and organizations have worked to promote motor vehicle occupant protection for children, youth, and young adults. In spite of the great strides made, thousands of young people, from newborns through age 20, continue to die or experience serious injuries that could have been prevented had they been properly restrained in a child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has produced this booklet since 2002 to provide information supporting the ongoing need for legislative, enforcement, education, and public awareness activities promoting occupant protection for children, youth, and young adults. Collectively, this information illustrates the national imperative for addressing motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death and injury for children and youth in the United States.
As a resource for occupant protection advocates, this booklet focuses on passenger vehicles. The majority of data in this fact book are from 2004, which was the most recent year data was available at press time, and are generated from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the General Estimates System (GES) produced by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis at NHTSA.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for the age group 4 through 34 and are ranked third in terms of years of life lost, behind only cancer and diseases of the heart.1
In 2004, 42,636 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes – a decrease of 0.6 percent form 2004 (42,884). Police filed reports on about 6.2 million traffic crashes. The police reports indicated that some 2,788,000 people were injured, 42,636 people were killed, and property damage was sustained in about 4.3 million of these crashes.2
The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes (police-reported as well as non-reported crashes) that occurred in 2000 totaled $230.6 billion.3 In 2004, safety belt nonuse in crashes caused an estimated $18 billion in economic costs to society.4 When vehicle occupants do not wear safety belts, the potential costs increase because unbelted crash victims often sustain more severe injuries and more fatalities than belted crash victims. On average, hospital costs for unbelted crash victims are more than 50 percent higher than belted crash victims.5
In 2004, a total of 17,526 (55 %) passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in a crash were reported not to have used a safety belt or child safety seat. Chart 1 compares the percentage of fatally injured occupants who were restrained to those who were unrestrained in passenger vehicle crashes.6
3 Blincoe, L., Seay, A., Zaloshnja, E., Miller, T., Romano. E., Luchter, S., and Spicer, R. The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, HS 809 446, May 2002.