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Motor Vehicle Occupant Protection
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In 2002, the use of child restraints saved an estimated 376 lives.Facts About Children and Youth

Children and youth from birth to age 14 represented 21 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 American Community Survey. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 2 years of age, and for people of every age from 4 to 34 years old. Although the fatality rate has decreased, the total number of child occupant deaths is still high. This is due to population increases and a near doubling, over the past 20 years, of the number of miles Americans travel on our Nation’s highways.

Facts About Restraint Use

  • In 2002, the use of child restraints saved an estimated 376 lives.

  • Of the 459 occupant fatalities among children from birth through age 4 in 2002, nearly 40 percent were completely unrestrained.

  • During 2002, a total of 1,785 children from birth through age 15 were killed in passenger vehicle crashes. Approximately 54 percent of passenger vehicle occupants in this age group were unrestrained. The breakdown by age group was as follows:

    • 40.4 percent of children from birth through age 4 were unrestrained.

    • 48.6 percent of children ages 5 through 9 were unrestrained.

    • 62.3 percent of children ages 10 through 15 were unrestrained.

  • If 100 percent of motor vehicle occupants younger than age 5 had been protected by child safety seats, an estimated 485 lives (an additional 109 lives) could have been saved in 2002.

  • From 1975 through 2002, an estimated 6,567 lives were saved by the use of child restraints (child safety seats or adult belts).

Chart 6 provides data on the use and nonuse of occupant restraints among occupants killed in passenger vehicle crashes in 2002. In most age groups (except the youngest and the oldest) a greater percentage of occupants who were killed, were not restrained. Unfortunately, being properly restrained cannot prevent all passengers from being fatally injured, especially in certain high impact crashes. However, a certain percentage of occupants in all age groups would not have been killed had they been properly restrained.

Chart 6 Occupant Fatalities in 2002
By Age and Restraint Use, In Passenger Vehicles

Age Group Restrained Percent Restrained Unrestrained Percent Unrestrained Total Total Percent
0-4 274 59.6% 185 40.4% 459 100%
5-9 205 51.4% 195 48.6% 400 100%
10-15 350 37.7% 576 62.3% 926 100%
16-20 1,999 35.5% 3,626 64.5% 5,625 100%
21-24 1,199 32.6% 2,477 67.4% 3,676 100%
25-44 3,232 32.7% 6,656 67.3% 9,888 100%
45-64 2,947 46.8% 3,353 53.2% 6,300 100%
65-74 1,253 58.5% 887 41.5% 2,140 100%
75+ 1,983 63.9% 1,122 36.1% 3,105 100%
TOTAL 13,448 41.4% 19,071 58.6% 32,519 100%

There is a significant decrease in restraint use among the 5-9, 10-15, and 16-20 age groups (when compared to the 0-4 age group). This decrease in restraint use illustrates the critical need for public information and education about the importance of restraint use, along with the need for ongoing enforcement of existing laws.

When viewing the chart, keep in mind that even with the use of occupant restraints:

  • Some crashes are so severe that occupants do not survive even when properly protected by a child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt.

  • There are instances in which the effectiveness of a child restraint or safety belt is compromised by incorrect use, e.g., improper installation or use of a child safety seat, placing a child in an adult belt.

  • Occupants in the youngest age group, 0-4 and oldest age groups, 65-74 and 75+, are more fragile. Therefore, they are more vulnerable to death or a serious injury when in a crash.

  • In many States, there is no law requiring the use of an appropriate occupant restraint (booster seat) for children who have outgrown their child safety seat. As a result, many young children are inappropriately placed in adult belts.

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Facts About Motor-Vehicle-Related Deaths and Injuries

Based on the 10-year period between 1993 and 2002, an average of 1,998 children from birth to 15 years of age died and 299,195 were injured in passenger vehicle crashes each year.

  • In 2002, an average of 5 children from birth through age 15 were killed and 693 were injured every day in motor vehicle crashes.

  • In 2002, a total of 1,785 children ages 15 and younger were killed and 253,000 were injured in passenger vehicle crashes. Eleven percent of the injured occupants had incapacitating injuries.

  • In 2002, there were 459 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities and 59,000 occupants injured among children ages 4 and younger.

  • In 2002, there were 1,326 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities and 195,000 occupants injured among children ages 5 through 15.

Chart 7 highlights facts about injury severity. In 2002, more than 80,000 children, youth, and young adults from birth to age 20 suffered incapacitating injuries in passenger vehicle crashes.

Chart 7 Occupants Killed or Injured In 2002
By Injury Severity, In Passenger Vehicles

  Injury Severity
Age Group Killed Incapa-citating* Non-
incapacitating
Possible Injury Injury Severity Unknown Total Injured Total
0-4 459 6,588 15,552 35,602 783 58,525 58,984
5-9 400 7,038 21,087 42,822 758 71,705 72,105
10-15 926 12,569 34,745 74,536 1,062 122,912 123,838
16-20 5,625 56,053 149,645 266,200 4,167 476,065 481,690
21-24 3,676 35,973 89,255 166,995 3,302 295,525 299,201
25-44 9,888 99,504 227,077 595,110 7,912 929,603 939,491
45-64 6,300 57,286 118,747 343,343 3,711 523,087 529,387
65-74 2,140 13,343 32,042 65,376 391 111,152 113,292
75+ 3,105 14,604 28,096 49,983 422 93,105 96,210
TOTAL 32,519 302,957 716,246 1,639,968 22,507 2,681,678 2,714,197

*An incapacitating injury is any injury, other than a fatal injury, that prevents the injured person from walking, driving, or normally continuing the activities the person was capable of performing before the injury occurred.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The Need To Promote Occupant Restraint Use for Children, Youth, and 16- to 20-Year-Olds

Facts About Children and Youth
Facts About Restraint Use
Facts About Motor-Vehicle-Related Deaths and Injuries

Facts About Young Adults Ages 16 to 20

Appendices

For Additional Information

Charts