Child Restraint

In 2017, 675 child occupants under age 13 died in traffic crashes; 216 were unrestrained, and many others were inadequately restrained at the time of the crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58% and 59%, respectively.

Using  an age-appropriate child restraint system saves lives. Read the NSC position statement on child restraints, which addresses child passenger safety among multiple modes of transportation. NHTSA provides the following recommendations for the selection of the proper child restraints:

  • Children under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Keep 1-to 3-year-olds in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. Once children outgrow the rear-facing car seat, they should ride in forward-facing car seats with a harness and tether.
  • NHTSA recommends children 4- to 7-years-old use forward-facing car seats until they reach the top height and weight limit of the car seat’s manufacturer and then move to a booster seat.
  • Keep 8- to 12-year-olds in booster seats until they are big enough to fit into seat belts properly.
  • Chart
  • Data Table
How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables


  • Kahane, C. J. (2015, January). Lives saved by vehicle safety technologies and associated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, 1960 to 2012 – Passenger cars and LTVs – With reviews of 26 FMVSS and the effectiveness of their associated safety technologies in reducing fatalities, injuries and crashes. (Report No. DOT HS 812 069). Washington, DC: NHTSA.

  • NHTSA child restraint recommendations:

  • Child restraint use estimates: Source: Li, H.R., Pickrell, T.M., & KC, S. (2018, September). The 2017 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (Report No. DOT HS 812 617). Washington, DC: NHTSA.

  • Fatality estimates: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data.