“Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for kids in the U.S.,” Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, said Tuesday at a news briefing. “There are crucial steps that need to be taken at every level to help protect the ones we love from car crashes, but really the first step is buckling up.”
Though the report showed a 24% decrease between 2002 and 2011 in the number of child deaths that were the result of not being restrained, one in three children who died in a motor vehicle crash in 2011 were found not secured in a child safety seat or wearing a seat belt. Black children died from car crashes at a higher rate than white children, according to the report, which found the death rate was 1.5 per 100,000 for black children compared with 1.0 per 100,000 among whites.
Unrestrained child deaths among black and Hispanic children made up for a larger proportion of car crash deaths than among white children, where that factor was a contributing cause in nearly half of all such incidents between 2009 and 2010 compared to 26% in white children.
“Socioeconomic status can play a role in whether a family has a car seat and buckles,” said study co-author Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC's Transportation Safety Team in its Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Seat belt use among children 7 and younger increased from 88% in 2002 to 91%, but the report found that older children were less likely to be buckled.
Though every state has in place laws requiring young children to be restrained in a car or booster seat, states differ as to the age when children can be allowed to use seat belts. According to the report, 35 states and the District of Columbia required drivers to secure children in a car or booster seat through the age of 6 or 7, while 12 states require car or boosters seats up to age 5. Two states—Tennessee and Wyoming—required the use of child restraints until age 8.
“Although we've made progress reducing the number of child passenger deaths, we can do more to keep our kids safe,” Frieden said. “There is really nothing more tragic for a parent than losing a child to something that could have been prevented.”
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