Powerful Car Seat Facts and Stats: Best 2022 Updates for All Parents!

Car accidents are the number #1 source of child passenger deaths in children between four and twelve and number #2 in kids aged one to four.

Various studies conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that placing your child in a correct restraint system is the best way to increase safety.

We will present various car seat facts and stats to discuss the importance of having a child restraint system.


Take away key points

  • Car crashes are the leading causes of death in children.
  • The improper use of child restraints will increase the risk of severe injuries and even result in fatalities.
  • The use of child restraints will prevent fatal injuries and improve the safety of child passengers.
  • The seats should be installed correctly. Every incorrectly installed restraint jeopardizes a child’s life.
  • Using age-appropriate restraints keeps little ones secure on the road. So follow the AAP and NHTSA’s guidelines.
  • All states have different laws, so comply with the officials to keep kids safe and sound in the car.
  • Find multiple programs to ensure children’s safety in restraints.

Child Restraint System Facts and Stats: What You Need to Know

You're mistaken if you think the game is over once you install a child restraint and place your little one inside. You must keep children's safety a priority on the road to avoid accidents that might result in fatalities.

Look at the statistics below for a better understanding.

car seat safety facts

1. Car crash: The leading cause of death in children

Car crashes are the most frequent cause of fatally injured children, as the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention claims. The chances that your child will be in a car collision at some point are too high. Understanding how car seat safety can affect the result is crucial to preserve children's lives. Please refer to the facts below:

  • 21% of parents think it's fine not to restrain a child in a car seat for a short trip. In addition, 12% of parents agree that it is acceptable for children to be unrestrained if they're in a hurry, according to SafeKids. However, the officials claim that most severe and fatal injuries occur at the speed of 40 mph, 25 miles away from home.
  • The experts state that a child is involved in a car collision every 33 seconds.
  • The study shows that of the 38,824 traffic fatalities in 2020 in the USA, 1,093 (3%) were children 14 years old and younger.
  • The same study shows that 680 children were restrained, while 286 (42%) were not restrained. In addition, 65% of children riding in a vehicle with an unrestrained driver were also unrestrained.
  • The CDC found that Hispanic and Black children were more prone to death in unrestrained/incorrect restraints than White children. The study showed that 45% of black and 46% of Hispanic children were not appropriately restrained or entirely unrestrained, compared with 26% of White kids (aged twelve and younger).

2. Child safety seats: Children's best protection

When car seats/ booster seats are correctly installed in the back seat of your motor vehicle, the child restraints will prevent serious injury and eliminate fatalities. Look at the numbers for more information.

  • Car seats reduce risks of injuries and casualties in car crashes by 71-82% for children, compared to the seat belt systems, as the AAA claims.
  • Compared with seat belt use alone, booster seats decrease the risks of severe injuries by 45% for children 4 to 8 years old.
  • Seat belt systems reduce the risks of death and severe injuries by 50%.
  • Children aged 4 to 8 are 45% less likely to be injured when in a booster seat/appropriate car seat than in a seat belt system.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strongly urges all children younger than twelve to be properly restrained in the back seat rather than the front seat. Adequate child restraint reduces the chance of death and injury by more than 30%. You can find more information here.
  • The AAP urges parents to keep their children in the rear-facing car seats until they're two or outgrow the maximum weight and height recommended by the manufacturer. However, the officials also state you should keep a child in the rear-facing infant seat as long as possible, even after they're two. Rear-facing seats are up to five times more secure than forward-facing car seats in minimizing injuries and protecting younger children from zero to twenty-four months old.
  • Restrained kids were 66% more likely to be correctly buckled in age-adequate car seats when their state law followed the official guidelines and the best practice recommendations, as the CDC claims.

3. Inadequate car seat installation: Jeopardizing your child's safety

Car seat misuse can severely harm child passengers and result in fatalities. A 2015 NHTSA study showed alarming statistics about incorrect car seat usage, leading to decreased protection and life-threatening situations. The trends show:

  • 46% of car seats are not correctly installed
  • 49% of infant car seats were not appropriately used. The data show that the misuse was related to the insufficient recline in the rear-facing seat. A rear-facing car seat should recline between 30 and 45 degrees. However, the results indicate that 16% of infant car seats were less than 30 degrees inclined.
  • 61% of forward-facing seats were incorrectly used. The highest trend is related to the loose installation. A forward-facing car seat mustn't move more than one inch in all directions, but 17% could carry more than two inches.
  • 20% of booster seats were not used correctly. The highest misuse is in the lap belt position. The lap belt should cover children's upper thighs and hips, but in 9-12% of booster seats, the lap belt was placed over the children's ribs or stomach. For the following years, you can find more studies here.

4. Proper car seat installation: Saving children's lives

facts about car seat safety

Each car seat has different installation instructions. Consult the instruction manual or contact the manufacturer for in-depth installation guidelines. Here are some additional points to consider when installing a car seat:

  • Read the car seat manual and the vehicle owner's manual for a correct car seat installation.
  • For installation, car seats either use the LATCH system or the vehicle seat belt. Never use both the seat belt and the LATCH system to ensure safety, as it's not practicable. If you use vehicle seat belts, lock the buckles and follow the seat belt path per the vehicle owner's manual. 
  • Always place the car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. Place it in the middle seating position if possible. Never place car seats in the front seat; turn the airbag system off if you must.
  • The car seat mustn't move more than one inch in all directions when pulled at the belt path, and you must secure it tightly in the vehicle.
  • To install a forward-facing car seat correctly, attach the tether strap to the tether anchor and tighten it. This step is vital, as it reduces the forward movements in the event of a collision. As of September 2020, all new minivans, cars, and light trucks must have top tethers.
  • If installing a rear-facing car seat, ensure the restraint has a correct recline angle. Multiple models have built-in angle indicators and adjusters to help you adequately install car seats. 

5. The most frequent car seat misconceptions

Many parents still do not respect the official guidelines and use car seats in their own way. They are seriously endangering car safety and children's lives. The most common mistakes include:

  • Children riding unrestrained or sharing a seat belt
  • Rear-facing children in the front seat with the airbags on. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front
  • Infants turned forward-facing in the vehicle
  • Harness straps are too loose or do not cover the shoulders
  • A shoulder belt placed under the arm or behind the back
  • The car seat is visibly loose or not correctly attached to the back seat of the vehicle

6. How to correctly restrain a child in a car seat?

The harness straps should be over their shoulders to restrain your child in a car safety seat. The straps mustn't be twisted but lie flat and be pulled through the slots above or at your kiddo's shoulders.

In addition, the chest and harness clip should be tight and buckled until snug. To test the tightness, try pitching the straps at the shoulders. If you cannot pinch it, you're good to go.

If you're unsure how to install a seat properly, please call your verified child passenger safety technician. They will help you with the process and show you all the tips for keeping kids safe in restraints. You can search for the child passenger safety technician here.

7. Car seats meeting your child's age: Age-appropriate restraints for effortless installation

Car seat manufacturers indicate the maximum size and weight limit on the label. So, depending on the size and weight of your kids, you can find the best car seats for all ages and stages.

a. Rear-facing car seat

Rear-facing child restraints are the primary car seats for a baby. Such seats have handles, and you can use them as carriers. Rear-facing seats are turned toward the vehicle's back for increased safety reasons. The AAP recommends using the seats as long as possible; their limit might be 45 or even 50 pounds (extended rear-facing position).

b. Convertible car seats

Depending on your child's size, these restraints can be both forward and rear-facing. The height and weight limit will determine their method. You can use the restraint as the forward-facing seat if the child overcomes the maximum size and weight for the rear seat. Forward-facing limits cover children up to 65 pounds. In addition, these seats have 5-point harness systems for more security.

c. Booster seats

A booster seat is used when the child overgrows the forward-facing harness. Children should be four feet nine inches tall for the booster seat and between eight and twelve years old.

To use the belt-positioning booster seat, you must ensure the seat belt fits the child's body appropriately. For example, the shoulder belt should cover their shoulder and chest, not their neck, while the lap belt must cover their upper thighs and hips, not their stomach. If this is not the case, children are not ready for the belt-positioning booster seats, and you should keep them in the harness seats.

A backless booster seat is another booster seat type. However, the experts prefer the highback booster seat models more, as they provide more head and neck support due to the "wings" on both sides of the frame. Remember to place the booster seat in the vehicle's back until your kids are thirteen.

Finally, the CDC studies show that the death rate in seven years old children was reduced by 25% in all states with booster seat laws compared with states without booster seat laws.

d. Seat belt fit

rear facing car seat safety facts

Once your older children are thirteen, they can use the adult seat belt as the primary restraint system. It would be best to sit in the back, fully restrained, but children can freely sit in the front using the seat belt.

The proper use of seat belts depends on the driver's seat belt. Most children will follow your example, so if you correctly use the belts, your children will do the same. Remember that 65% of child fatalities were due to unrestrained passengers in motor vehicle crashes.

To ensure the seat belt fits properly, the shoulder belt should cover children's chest and shoulders, not their necks. On the other hand, the lap belts must cover their hips and upper thighs, not their stomachs. If not, even older children cannot use seat belts. Even a minor crash can be fatal for incorrectly restrained kids.

8. Car seat laws and standards

Each of America's states has its child restraint rules and law regulations to increase safety on the road. You can find all the car seat laws here. First, however, the most important rules to follow:

  • If a car seat has been involved in a car collision or is more than six years old, replace it according to the NHTSA or manufacturer instructions.
  • Get your car seats inspected at hospitals, fire stations, and police departments, or find local safety technicians to help examine the seats.
  • Ensure the seats correspond to your kids' ages and development. Do not rush to place them in boosters if they're not ready. Also, do not remove car seats if they're not prepared for belts only.
  • All passengers must be properly buckled up before the driver starts the engine.

9. Additional strategies to increase a proper car seat use

The CDC offers extra programs for improving children's safety on the road and the appropriate use of the restraint system. These include:

  • Distribution and education programs - helping parents obtain unused and new restraints and learn how to install and use them correctly. Such courses offer hands-on demonstrations that increase the good setups.
  • Short-term, high-visibility courses - the enforcement programs are similar to the procedures for seat belt usage and are the most effective when widely advertised in the media.
  • Education and incentive programs - rewarding children and parents/caregivers with multiple coupons and similar rewards when using restraints properly. Such courses provide videos, print materials, and other audio and visual support for parents or caregivers.

Here you can find more about the additional programs.

The Bottom Line

As you have seen, the death rates and trends are alarming. Therefore, parents/caregivers must follow the official rules, car seat facts and stats to increase kids' safety and secure them on the road.

Of course, proper use of child restraint systems is always critical to achieving this goal. So please, ensure the car seats are correctly installed to avoid fatal injuries in car accidents.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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