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In and Around Cars Safety Policy Brief

By the Numbers

Advocacy at Work

Car Seat Laws for All 50 States

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have booster seat laws to ensure that children ranging up to age 8 benefit from advanced safety technology. Safe Kids is campaigning for strong laws in the remaining two states, South Dakota and Florida.

Buckling Up and Child Restraints

Policy Prescription

Side Impact Protection in Car Seats

The government sets child safety seats and booster seat performance standards. The use of car seats and other safety devices has led to a 41 percent decrease in childhood motor vehicle traffic-related fatalities. Safe Kids supports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) efforts to create a side impact safety standard for child restraints.

Heatstroke (Hyperthermia)

Every year, approximately 38 unattended children die in cars from heat. More than half the time, caregivers are distracted and forget there is a child in the car. Thirty percent of the time children climb into cars left unlocked or find the keys to gain car access and 17 percent are intentionally left in cars. Kids succumb to heat because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Currently 19 states have laws that prohibit leaving children alone in cars, and other states prosecute caregivers under child endangerment laws.

Counting Down to Drive

The first year of driving is the most dangerous, which inspires Safe Kids’ Countdown2Drive program. Nevertheless, teens as young as 14 years old can drive in nine states. Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) laws have significantly reduced the number of teen motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries, but there is no uniform GDL requirement. During the consideration of the recently passed federal transportation bill, MAP-21, Safe Kids supported incentive grant programs to encourage state adoption of sensible, effective, age-appropriate GDL laws.

Distracted Driving

Most states have addressed distracted driving with varying degrees of effectiveness. Twelve states have laws that were enacted in 2010. Ten states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Our president and CEO commented on findings of a newly released survey stating that new mothers indulge in risky driving behavior with their babies in the car. Safe Kids supports distracted driving laws. 

More Information About Safety In and Around Cars