Child Restraint

In 2021, 711 child occupants under age 13 died in traffic crashes; 226 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.

Correct use of a child restraint system appropriate for a child’s age and size saves lives. Read the National Safety Council (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 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 height or weight limit for their 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 or weight limit of the car seat’s manufacturer instructions 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.
  • Be sure all passengers use seat belts correctly, with the lap-belt low on the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest, not resting on the neck. Never place a shoulder belt under an arm or behind your back.

Use the interactive chart to compare the prevalence of child occupant deaths and observed child restraint use. For all age groups, the percent of children dying while not being restrained is much higher than the percent of children observed not restrained. For example, during a national observation survey in 2021, no children less than 1 year of age were observed unrestrained, while 31.0% of child occupant deaths less than 1 year of age were unrestrained in 2021.

  • Chart
  • Data Table
How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables


Child restraint use estimates: Boyle, L. (2023, March). The 2021 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (Report No. DOT HS 813 396). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Child passenger deaths: NSC analysis of NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.