Child Passenger Safety Child Passenger Safety
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

National Child Passenger Safety Week occurs each year during the week of Valentine’s Day, bringing public attention to the importance of safely transporting children. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States, but many of these deaths can be prevented. Placing children in age- and size-appropriate restraint systems reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half (NHTSA 2006a).

The Problem:

In the United States during 2005, 1,451 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 203,000 were injured. That’s an average of 4 deaths and 556 injuries each day (NHTSA 2006a).

Of the children ages 0 to 14 years who were killed in motor vehicle crashes during 2005, nearly half were unrestrained (NHTSA 2006a).

What You Can Do Right Now To Make Your Child Safer In The Car:

Seat all children ages 12 years old and younger in the back seat and be sure they are properly restrained every time they ride in a motor vehicle–even during those quick trips to the corner market (visit the websites below for more detailed information about proper restraints including rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, and booster seats).

Read both the car seat instruction manual and your vehicle owner’s manual to make sure you are properly installing and using the seat. One study found that 72% of nearly 3,500 observed child restraint systems were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash (NHTSA 2006b).

Send in your car seat registration card so that the manufacturer can contact you about any recalls. You can also call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Auto Safety Hotline, (888) 327-4236, to find out about recalls.

Replace any car seat that was used during a motor vehicle crash.

Child Safety Seat Use

When choosing a child safety seat, it is important to find one that is age-and size- appropriate and fits in your car. For tips on making this decision, visit the following web sites of CDC partners:

Child Passenger Safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2006, American Academy of Pediatrics

Once you choose a child safety seat, you need to learn how to install it properly in your car. Be sure to read the manuals for your car and safety seat, and contact a trained technician in your community for hands-on assistance. The following web sites can help you locate resources in your community:

CDC directory of state and local health departments

Safe Kids Worldwide

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator

Booster Seat Use

Children should start using a booster seat when they grow out of their child safety seats (usually when they weigh about 40 pounds). They should continue to ride in a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belts in the car fit properly, typically when they are 4’9” tall (NHTSA 2006a).

Children require a lap and shoulder belt combination when riding in a vehicle. Belt-positioning booster seats raise children up so that this belt combination fits correctly. Shield booster seats, which have a plastic shield in front of the child, offer less protection and should not be used.

Booster seats have been shown to reduce injury risk by 59% compared to safety belts alone, for children ages 4 to 7 years (Durbin et al. 2003).

Check out the following web sites to learn more about child passenger safety age- and size-appropriate restraint recommendations:

American Academy of Pediatrics

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Safe Kids Worldwide


All 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws that vary widely from state to state. Many states are expanding their legislation to require booster seats for older children. Only a few states have mandated back seating position for children. For an up-to-date summary of state laws, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety web site.