By far the most common type of injury accident involving children are those that also involve motor vehicle collisions. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), nearly 250,000 children are injured every year in car accidents.
This means that on any given day nearly 700 children are harmed due to accidents on our roadways. Of the 250,000 kids injured each year, approximately 2,000 die from their injuries. Children make up about 5% of total fatalities due to car accidents. In fact, for children between the ages of 2 and 14, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death.
Car accidents are also the leading cause of acquired disability (e.g., brain injury, paralysis, etc.) for children nationwide. And approximately 20% of the children who die in a car accident each year are killed in accidents involving a driver who is legally intoxicated. Nearly half of these children were killed while riding as passengers in an automobile driven by an intoxicated driver.
The failure to wear a seat belt or use a child safety seat is a contributing factor in more than half of the cases involving children who die in car accidents. Not only is an unrestrained child a potential distraction to the driver of the vehicle, but also the failure to wear a seat belt dramatically increases the chance that a child will suffer much more serious injury and death.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 72% of the 3,500 observed child vehicle safety restraints were being used incorrectly. When that happens, the risk that the child will suffer an injury or more severe injury rises even more. NHTSA estimates that a properly installed and used child safety seat lowers a child's risk of death by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4.
Every state requires the use of approved child safety seats for children under the age of 5. According to NCSA there is only a 90% compliance rate with respect to using approved safety seats for children under this age. Notably, a recent study found that a key factor influencing the increased risk of harm to children in accidents is when the child is prematurely moved from a child restraint system up to an adult seat and then allowed to sit in the front seat too soon (source: Partners for Child Passenger Safety Fact and Trend Report, 2006.)