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More than 600 child passengers aged 12 and below died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019, the latest year for which data is available. Of the children who passed away, nearly 40% were not buckled up. Thinking about child safety can be difficult — but making sure you have the right safety gear in place is an important part of keeping your child safe.
Even when correct safety gear such as restraints and booster seats are used — they’re used incorrectly nearly half the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Reading up on your child’s safety restraint systems could help you keep them safe.
Booster and car seat safety statistics and facts
Car seat safety statistics and car seat death statistics are never easy to read. However, arming yourself with the facts may help you keep your family safe in the car.
- Child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants aged one and below, and by 54% for toddlers between one and four years of age. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA)
- 67% of children riding with unrestrained drivers were also unrestrained, based on known restraint use. (NHTSA)
- 608 children aged 12 and under passed away and 91,000 were injured in a motor vehicle crash in 2019. (CDC)
- 38% of children who passed away in a car accident in 2019 were not using a restraint. (CDC)
- 23% of children passengers who passed away were involved in a car accident that involved alcohol-impaired driving. (CDC)
- Using a booster seat reduces the risk of serious injury in children ages four to eight by 45%. (CDC)
- Seat belt use reduces the risk of death and serious injury by about half for older children and adults. (CDC)
- Children under one year old should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. (NHTSA)
- Approximately 8.2% of children under one year old were not in rear-facing car seats in 2019. (NHTSA)
Car seat types
Several different types of cars are available to help keep your child safe. Your child’s age and individual needs will likely influence the type of car seat that works best for them.
Rear-facing car seat
- Best for infants, from newborns to three-year-olds
- Designed to mitigate stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord
Forward-facing car seat
- Best for toddlers between the ages of four and seven
- Designed with a buckled harness that limits your child’s movement in the event of an accident
- Best for children between the ages of four and 12
- Raises a child’s body so that the car’s seat belt sits correctly over the child’s hips and chest
- Best for children and adults age 12 and above, provided they’re big enough so that the belt fits properly
- Should fit snugly across thighs, shoulder and chest
Car and booster seat safety laws by state
If you’re looking for ways to keep your family safe in the car, remember that enforcing seat belt use is one of the best ways to do that. Each state has its own booster seat guidelines and car seat laws.
State Must be in safety seat Maximum base fine for a first offense Preference for rear seat Alabama Until age 6 $25.00 No Alaska Until 57” tall, 65 lbs $50.00 No Arizona Until age 7, 57” tall $50.00 No Arkansas Until age 6, 60 lbs $100.00 No California Until age 8, 57” tall $100.00 Yes, for children 7 and below who are shorter than 57″ Colorado Until age 8 $81.00 Yes, for children one year and younger and less than 20 lbs. Connecticut Until age 8 $50.00 No Delaware Until age 8 $25.00 Yes, for children 11 and younger and 65″ or less District of Columbia Until age 8 $75.00 No Florida Until age 6 $60.00 No Georgia Until age 8 $50.00 Yes, for children 7 and below Hawaii Until age 10, 4’ 9” tall $100.00 No Idaho Until age 7 $79.00 No Illinois Until age 8 $75.00 No Indiana Until age 8 $25.00 No Iowa Until age 6 $25.00 No Kansas Until age 8 $60.00 No Kentucky Until age 8 $50 for child restraint; $30 for booster seat No Louisiana Until age 9 $100.00 Yes, for children 12 years and younger Maine Until age 8, 57”, 80 lbs $50.00 Yes, for children 11 years and younger, and less than 100 lbs Maryland Until age 8, 57” $50.00 No Massachusetts Until age 8, 57” $25.00 No Michigan Until age 8, 57” $10.00 Yes, for children 3 years and younger Minnesota Until age 8, 57” $50.00 No Mississippi Until age 7, 57” $25.00 No Missouri Until age 8, 4’ 9” tall, 80 lbs $50.00 No Montana Until age 5, 60 lbs $100.00 No Nebraska Until age 8 $25.00 Yes, for children 7 and younger Nevada Until age 6, 57” tall $500.00 Yes, for children 2 years and younger New Hampshire Until age 7, 57” tall $50.00 No New Jersey Until age 8, 57” tall $75.00 Yes, for children 7 years and younger, less than 57″ tall New Mexico Until age 7, 60 lbs $25.00 Yes, for children younger than one year in a rear-facing car seat New York Until age 8 $100.00 No North Carolina Until age 8, 80 lbs $25.00 Yes, for children 4 and younger under 40 lbs. North Dakota Until age 7 $25.00 No Ohio Until age 8, 57” tall, 40 lbs $75.00 No Oklahoma Until age 8, 4” 9’ tall $50.00 No Oregon Until 4” 9’ and 40 lbs $115.00 No Pennsylvania Until age 8 $75.00 No Rhode Island Until age 8, 57”, 80 lbs $85.00 Yes, for children 7 and younger South Carolina Until age 8 or 57” tall $150.00 Yes, for children 7 and younger South Dakota Until age 5 and 40 lbs $25.00 No Tennessee Until age 9 and 4’ 9” tall $50.00 Yes, for children 8 and younger and less than 4′ 9″ tall Texas Until age 8 and 57” tall $25.00 No Utah Until age 8 and 57” tall $45.00 No Vermont Until age 8 and 20 lbs $25.00 Yes, for children younger than one year or less than 20 lbs Virginia Until age 8 $50.00 Yes, for children in rear-facing devices Washington Until age 5 and 4’ 9” tall $124.00 Yes, for children 12 years and younger. West Virginia Until 8 and 4’ 9” tall $20.00 No Wisconsin Until 8, 57”, 80 lbs $75.00 Yes, for children 3 and younger Wyoming Until age 9 $50.00 Yes, for children 8 and younger
Another way to ensure your peace of mind in the car is to ensure you have the best car insurance available. The best car insurance company depends on your individual needs and preferences. Some shoppers are looking for the cheapest car insurance companies on the market. Per Bankrate’s research, you can find the lowest average full coverage premiums at USAA and Geico. However, these rates are for comparative purposes only. To see a more accurate picture of what you’d pay, you may want to get car insurance quotes from a few different companies. You may also want to talk to friends and family to see what company they recommend.
Frequently asked questions
Five-point harness car seats should have height and weight limits listed on them. Typically, children are ready to graduate from car seats to booster seats between the ages of five and nine.
Your booster seat should note height and weight recommendations on it. When your child is seated in the booster seat, the seat belt should fit snugly across the child’s torso and hips without being uncomfortable.
The first step is to make sure your child is properly restrained in the car. Ensure that your child doesn’t exceed the height and weight limits listed on their car seat or booster seat. Never leave children in a hot car — even if you’re just running inside for a moment. Talk to your children about not playing near vehicles and staying away from cars when they’re backing up.