Washington — A new study finds that one-third of all children who died in car crashes over the last decade were not restrained — and the U.S. has a higher fatality rate than many European countries.
The Centers for Disease Control found between 2002 and 2011, 9,182 children 12 or younger died in car crashes and 33 percent were not restrained in car seats or with seat belts. Motor vehicle death rates among children 12 or younger decreased 43 percent, from 2.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2002 to 1.2 in 2011. But car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children.
Unrestrained deaths have been falling over the last decade.
In 2011, traffic death rates among children younger than 14 were below the U.S. rate (1.9 deaths per 100,000 population) in the United Kingdom (0.5), Sweden (0.6), Italy (0.7), Germany (0.8), Norway (0.9), and Canada (1.1). The fatality rate for children in the United States is more than double that of 22 high-income European countries combined. During 2009-2010, a total of 1,409 children died in motor vehicle crashes, a rate of 1.3 deaths per 100,000 population.
The CDC said the study reiterates the need for children to travel in the back seat in age- and size-appropriate restraints. The CDC says state laws requiring child passenger restraints and booster seat use in the back seat can help reduce deaths.
The CDC study found black children have higher death rates than white children among those age 1–3 years (2.0 versus 1.0 deaths per 100,000 population) and for all children through age 12 combined (1.5 versus 1 death per 100,000 population). Black children had a significantly higher proportion of unrestrained child deaths compared with white children for those age 1-3 — 47 percent versus 20 percent.
The CDC said no significant differences in motor vehicle death rates were found for Hispanic children compared with white children. Hispanic children had a significantly higher proportion of unrestrained child deaths compared with white children for those age 4-7 — 50 percent versus 26 percent, age 8-12 (55 percent versus 33 percent), and age 0-12 (46 percent versus 26 percent).
The CDC said child safety seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71 percent; and for toddlers (age 1-4) by 54 percent in passenger vehicles. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children age 4-8 when compared with seat belt use alone.