Child Passenger Safety

Child Passenger Safety

GHSA Policy

Click here to view GHSA's Policy and Priorities on Occupant Protection

On average, 3 children were killed and an estimated 380 children were injured every day in traffic crashes in 2020.
In 2020, based on known restraint use, 65 percent of the children riding with unrestrained passenger vehicle drivers were
also unrestrained. Of the 1,093 children killed in traffic crashes, 229 (21%) were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2020.

  • Use of a child safety seat reduces the risk of injury for infants and toddlers by 71-82% compared with the use of seat belts alone.2,3
  • Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children ages 4-8.4

Legislation

In 1971, the federal government established minimum standards for child safety seats and restraint systems to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes. Today all states and territories have child passenger safety laws, although requirements of the laws vary widely.

Child Safety Seat Education

Although manufacturers have improved child safety seat ease of use ratings, caregivers often want help or assurance that they are using their child's safety seat correctly. There are places for them to get help:

Car seat manufacturers: In addition to phone support, many manufacturers offer video hands-on education.

Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs): Nationally certified by Safe Kids Worldwide, these individuals can provide direct,  and often video, hands-on help and answer questions. 

Inspection Stations: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a directory of many inspection stations for hands-on help either by appointment or at public events.

Traffic safety groups agree that a strong child passenger safety law should:

  • Cover all children up to age 16 in all seating positions.
  • Be primary enforcement.
  • Require all children to be in age- and size-appropriate restraint systems (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat).
  • Require children younger than 13 to be properly secured in rear seats (provided the vehicle has them), unless all available rear seats are in use by children younger than 13.
  • Apply to all vehicles equipped with seat belts; no vehicles (such as pickup trucks, taxis, or rental cars) should be exempt.
  • Make the driver responsible for restraint use by children under 16, regardless of the relationship to the child.
  • Allow passengers to ride only in seating areas equipped with seat belts and prohibit passengers in the cargo areas of pickup trucks.
  • Ensure that children with special needs use proper restraints.
  • Contain no exemptions, such as allowing children to be unsecured if all seat belts are in use, attending to the personal needs of the child, medical waivers, out-of-state vehicles, and/or drivers who are not the vehicle owner or who are not related to the child.

GHSA has been a permanent voting member of the National Child Passenger Safety Board since its establishment in 1999. As the voice for the State Highway Safety Offices, our representative has a unique place on the Board.

1 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022, September).  2020 Summary of motor vehicle crashes: 2020 data. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 813 369). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2 Arbogast KB, Durbin DR, Cornejo RA, Kallan MJ, Winston FK. An evaluation of the effectiveness of forward-facing child restraint systems. Accid Anal Prev. 2004;36(4):585-589.

Zaloshnja E, Miller TR, Hendrie D. Effectiveness of child safety seats vs safety belts for children aged 2 to 3 years. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(1):65-68. 

Arbogast KB, Jermakian JS, Kallan MJ, Durbin DR. Effectiveness of belt positioning booster seats: an updated assessment. Pediatrics. 2009;124(5):1281-1286.

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Laws

All states and territories require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria, but requirements vary based on age, weight and height.

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