Key findings:

  • Nationally, child motor fatalities decreased by an average of 52% since 1994.
  • Connecticut, Illinois and Wisconsin had the largest decreases in child motor fatalities.
  • All states except Oklahoma require children younger than 13, including those sitting in the rear, to be restrained..
  • Restraint use among children younger than 13 years was 90.1% in 2017.
  • The national average child motor fatality rate over the last decade is about 5%.

Auto fatalities of children younger than 15 continue to decline every year. However, car crashes still remain a leading cause of accidental deaths for children ages one to 13. Many of these deaths have been determined avoidable with the proper use of seat belts, booster seats and car seat restraints.

Each state has considerable variation in its laws surrounding child auto restraints. QuoteWizard analyzed the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data to find which states have seen the largest decreases in child fatalities. Our team looked at auto fatality data for children ages 15 and younger from over a 24-year period (1994 - 2018). We then ranked each state based on the states that have seen the largest decreases in child fatalities.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 19 states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear but vary based on the child's age, height and weight. The top states found to have the lowest overall child fatality rates have strict restraint requirements. For example, Illinois, which has some of the strictest child seat laws in the country, ranked second-most-improved state for child passengers in our report. Illinois’ laws require all children under two years of age to sit in a rear-facing seat unless the child is a minimum of 40 pounds or 40 inches tall. Similar requirements can be expected in the safest state, Connecticut. Children under two years or under 30 lbs are required in the rear-facing restraint system.

  • For younger children and infants, some form of car seat restraint is required in all 50 states (although laws on how they are used vary).
  • Eleven states require children under the age of two to sit in a child rear-facing car seat. These states include: California, Connecticut, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.
  • In 49 states, a child auto restraint such as a booster seat is required for children who have outgrown their infant to small child safety seats.
  • The only state lacking booster seat laws is South Dakota. South Dakota ranked 45th in our report, making it one of the least safe states for child passengers.

Rankings

This table ranks states with the biggest decreases in child vehicle fatalities, 1 being the biggest decrease in child fatalities, and 50 being the smallest decrease. Associated with the data is the overall child fatality rate over the last 10 years compared to fatalities for all age groups.

Rank State Child fatality change (1994-2018) % of child fatalities in all fatal accidents

1

Connecticut

-87.50%

1.93%

2

Illinois

-80.60%

3.08%

3

Wisconsin

-80.49%

2.65%

4

New Jersey

-80.00%

2.17%

5

Idaho

-76.92%

5.80%

6

New York

-76.00%

2.44%

7

Maine

-75.00%

2.06%

8

Iowa

-74.19%

4.10%

9

Michigan

-73.86%

3.16%

10

Nevada

-72.73%

3.06%

11

Missouri

-71.67%

3.67%

12

Virginia

-71.15%

2.63%

13

Pennsylvania

-70.97%

2.20%

14

North Dakota

-70.00%

3.50%

15

Oklahoma

-67.44%

4.29%

16

Arkansas

-67.39%

3.78%

17

Massachusetts

-66.67%

1.34%

18

Tennessee

-65.00%

3.20%

19

California

-64.91%

3.26%

20

Indiana

-64.91%

3.36%

21

Washington

-63.64%

3.08%

22

Minnesota

-63.41%

3.52%

23

Mississippi

-62.50%

4.94%

24

Ohio

-62.32%

2.84%

25

Montana

-60.00%

4.31%

26

Rhode Island

-60.00%

1.61%

27

Florida

-58.91%

2.71%

28

Kentucky

-58.14%

3.54%

29

Utah

-58.06%

5.75%

30

North Carolina

-57.30%

3.78%

31

Wyoming

-55.56%

4.85%

32

South Carolina

-55.38%

3.11%

33

New Mexico

-55.17%

5.26%

34

Alabama

-52.94%

4.36%

35

Kansas

-52.78%

4.64%

36

Louisiana

-51.11%

4.52%

37

Vermont

-50.00%

2.40%

38

Georgia

-48.75%

4.03%

39

Maryland

-46.43%

2.74%

40

Arizona

-44.44%

4.43%

41

Oregon

-40.74%

3.30%

42

Nebraska

-38.89%

4.93%

43

West Virginia

-38.46%

3.13%

44

Texas

-36.53%

4.35%

45

South Dakota

-36.36%

5.67%

46

Alaska

-25.00%

4.44%

47

New Hampshire

-25.00%

1.16%

48

Colorado

-14.81%

3.35%

49

Hawaii

0.00%

2.77%

50

Delaware

200.00%

3.21%

Restraint use and effectiveness

According to recent data, the risk of fatal injury is reduced by 71% for infants (under one year of age) and by 54% for toddlers (between one and four years old) when properly secured in a child safety seat in a compact car. The corresponding risk rates go down to 58% and 59% when secured safely in a truck. Restraining children in rear seats instead of front seats reduces fatal injury risk by about three-quarters for children up to age three, and almost half for children ages four to eight.

child auto fatality rates

How child auto fatalities have decreased

  • Car safety standards: Vehicle improvements such as air bags and electronic stability control have also contributed greatly to the reduction of traffic deaths on roads in the United States. In 2018, there was a 10% decrease from 2017 in passenger vehicle occupants killed in rollover crashes.
  • Stricter laws: Child passenger safety laws vary in each state. For an individual’s first offense, fines can range from $10 to $500. In some cases, many states may also use driver's license points as an additional penalty. https://saferide4kids.com/car-seat-laws-by-state/
  • Safety programs: Increasing seat belt use such as Click It or Ticket campaign, and reducing impaired driving have substantially lowered traffic fatalities overall.

Insurance and child auto restraints

Improper use of your child’s safety seat could impact your claim in the case that your child is injured in an accident. As children grow older, their restraint types change which requires drivers to upgrade their systems. The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 59% of car seats are not installed correctly. In most accidents, injury to children in car seats occurs regardless of the type of car seat.

But insurance providers will look for any reason to claim comparative negligence (that your child’s injuries could have been prevented and you are partially responsible). This lets your insurer save the company money, ultimately resulting in you paying more out of pocket. Making sure your child’s safety seat is the right model and that it is properly installed is critical to your child’s safety and getting fuller coverage in case of an accident.

After an accident, and depending on your insurance coverage, some insurers will cover the cost of a new car seat. If another driver is responsible for the accident, you can file a claim through their insurance to include a new car seat. You can file a claim through your own insurance to replace your car seat if you live in a state without a no-fault car insurance system.

Methodology

Our team analyzed child auto fatality data for ages under 15 from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) over a 24-year period (1994 - 2018). We determined which states have seen the largest decreases in child fatalities by finding the difference in child fatalities from 1994 to 2018 and ranked each state, 1 being the largest decrease in child fatalities, and 50 being the smallest decrease. Supported with the data is the overall child fatality rate over the last 10 years compared to fatalities for all age groups.