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In and Around Cars Safety Policy Brief

Road Safety Policy Prescriptions

Safe Kids Worldwide works with its coalitions and allies in child safety on the following issues, among others

Car Seat Laws for All 50 States

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have booster seat laws to ensure that children ranging up to age 8 benefit from advanced safety technology. More than ten states have recently passed laws adopting American Academy of Pediatric guidelines on keeping infants and toddlers in a rear facing position as specified in car seat manufacturer guidelines based on height and/or weight.

Using Seat Belts on Every Ride

​“Buckle Up” has been one of the most successful behavior change campaigns ever, and strong laws play a part in estimated seat belt use rates averaging over 90 percent in the U.S. 

Sensible Teen Licensing

The average car weighs 3,000 pounds and can hit speeds of 120 mph. Every state uses a “graduated driver’s licensing” system to empower teens with a substantial set of skills to operate a car safely. However, the laws are different and not all laws meet best practices such as reasonable curfews and hours of supervised on-the-road experience.

Motor Vehicles Manufactured with Safety as a Priority

Federal laws have required motor vehicles to use tested technology to remind people about buckling up, to build in rear cameras that help drivers avoid backover injuries, to ensure the safest use of car seats and much more.

Policies to Protect Kids on the Road

There’s still a lot of work to be done on road safety policy at the federal and state levels. Safe Kids supports measures including the following to make the experience of kids in cars safer than ever.

  • Seeking laws that require use of car seats up to age eight and that require infants and toddlers to remain rear facing up to age 2 (both also based on height/weight/manufacturers recommendations)
  • Supporting state laws to bar teen drivers from using handheld electronic devices and bar texting while driving by all drivers to deter distracted driving.
  • Favoring measures to set reasonable speed limits in school zones, 15 – 20mph; no more than 25mph.
  • Favoring permission for communities to use safety cameras to stop speeders, red light runners and those who pass school buses, especially in school zones
  • Encouraging the use of high visibility enforcement on car seats use.
  • Requiring helmet use on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), barring their use on public roads and setting a minimum age for kids to ride, drive.
  • Supporting federal and state policies to embrace Vision Zero and Complete Streets policies.
  • Eliminating the loophole that wrongly enables small children to travel in rideshares and taxis without car seats.
  • Encouraging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and state highway safety officials to promote awareness messages to help parents remember kids in vehicles in order to stop child heatstroke deaths.
  • Encouraging consideration on the impact on children as companies are testing and rolling out autonomous vehicles.


In and Around Cars: By the Numbers

Car Seats Save Lives

  • Between 1994 and 2016, there has been a 51 percent decrease in the number of motor vehicle occupant deaths and a 55 percent reduction in the fatality rate. During that time, the federal government and states have been passing life-saving laws.
  • However, between 2013 and 2016, there has been an 11 percent increase in both the number and rate of motor vehicle deaths. 
  • In 2015, there were more than 427,000 visits to Emergency Departments by children due to motor vehicle collisions.
  • Car seats, if correctly used, are 71 percent effective in reducing the risk of death to infants.
  • For children ages 4 to 8, the use of booster seats reduces the risk of non-fatal injury by 45 percent compared with the use of seat belts alone.

Prevention Efforts

  • Vehicle safety technologies first introduced in 1956, such as seat belts, air bags and electronic stability control, are responsible for 613,501 lives saved in motor vehicle collisions from 1960 to 2012.
  • Back up cameras on vehicles may reduce the blind zone by an average of 94 percent.

Hot Cars Kill Kids

  • Heatstroke from children left in cars has claimed the lives of more than 750 kids since 1998, with an average of 37 each year.
  • Children have died in cars from heatstroke in temperatures as low as 60 degrees.

Preparing a Generation of Safe Teen Drivers

  • In 2016, teenagers ages 14-19 years accounted for 74 percent of motor vehicle fatalities among children and died at more than 6 times the rate of children under 14.
  • It is estimated that 57 percent of crashes involving young drivers take place before midnight.
  • Nighttime driving restrictions starting at 9 pm led to an estimated 18 percent reduction in fatal crashes, compared to no restriction.
  • In New Jersey, a state that doesn’t require supervised practice hours, mandating 50 hours and restricting nighttime driving after 10 p.m. would lead to an estimated 14 percent reduction in collisions and 5 percent reduction in fatal crashes.

Speed Can Be Deadly

  • Crash risk increases with each mile per hour over the speed limit since there is progressively less time to react.
  • When a car is going 32 mph and hits a pedestrian, the average risk of death is 25 percent and of significant injury is 50 percent, according to a study by the AAA Foundation. However, a speed limit of 15 mph reduces the average risk of both death and serious injury to less than 10 percent.
  • Speeding was a factor in 31 percent of the fatal crashes involving passenger vehicle teen drivers in 2016.

Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Laws Work

  • States with primary enforcement laws demonstrated an impressive 92 percent of drivers using seat belts, compared to 83 percent in states with secondary enforcement laws.
  • In 2015, an estimated 13,941 children over the age of 5 were saved by seat belts.
  • Primary enforcement laws must be implemented fairly.

Teen Distracted Handheld Bans Work

More Information About Safety In and Around Cars

Safe Kids Partners on Road Safety: