Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 2.3 Seat Belt Use

01/01/2000

Motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death for children and youth.22 Consistent use of seat belts and child safety seats dramatically lessens the risk of injury or death in a motor vehicle crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 1998, 51 percent of all children under age 5 who were killed while occupants of a motor vehicle were not protected by seat belts or child safety seats.23

Table SD 2.3 presents data from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which gathers data through observation at intersections.24 Between 1996 and 1998, seat belt use among toddlers ages 1 to 4 increased dramatically from 60 percent to 91 percent. Use among infants under 1 year old increased from 85 percent to 97 percent during the same time period. While these are promising trends, recent research indicates as many as 85 percent of parents and caregivers who do use car seats continue to install and use car seats incorrectly.25

Between 1996 and 1998 rates of seat belt use increased modestly for persons ages 5 to 15 and 16 to 24, from 65 to 69 percent and 50 to 55 percent, respectively.

Differences by Age. The use of child safety seats or seat belts is substantially higher at younger ages. In 1998, rates were 97 percent for infants, 87 percent for children ages 1 to 4, 69 percent for children ages 5 to 15, and 55 percent for ages 16 to 24 (see Figure SD 2.3).

 

22 Hoyert, D.L., Kochanek. K.D., & Murphy, S.L. Deaths: Final Data for 1997. National Vital Statistics Reports 47 (19), Table 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
23 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1997. Traffic Safety Facts 1998. DOT HS 808 765. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation.
24 Previous editions of Trends in the Well-Being of America’s Children and Youth presented seat belt data based on parent report rather than observation. Estimates based on parent report are higher than those based on observation.
25 The study identified several frequent misuses of rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats for observed children, including 63 percent in seats not held tightly by safety belts, 33 percent with loose harness straps, and 20 percent with harness straps incorrectly routed through the seats. National SAFE KIDS Campaign. 1999. Child Passengers at Risk in America: A National Study of Car Seat Misuse. Washington, D.C.: National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Summary results online at: http://www.safekids.org/buckleup/study.html.

 

Figure SD 2.3 Percentage of children and youth in the United States who are obser ved to have worn a seat belt or been placed in a child safety seat, by age: a 1998

a Age group is based on the best judgment of the observers in the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) Controlled Intersection Study. Source: Transportation Secretary Slater Hails Increased Seat Belt Use, NHTSA 21-99, May 24, 1999. 1994 and 1996 estimates from National Occupant Protection Use Survey—1996: Controlled Intersection Study. Research Note. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, August 1997.

 

Table SD 2.3 Percentage of children and youth in the United States who are observed to have worn a seat belt or been placed in a child safety seat, by age:a 1994, 1996, and 1998

  1994 1996 1998
Infants (under age 1)b 88 85 97
Toddlers (1-4 years)c 61 60 91
Youths (5-15 years) 58 65 69
Young adults (16-24 years) 53 50 55

a Age group is based on the best judgment of the observers in the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) Controlled Intersection Study.
b Use of restraints for infants refers to child safety seats.
c Use of restraints for toddlers refers to safety belts or child safety seats.
Source: 1998 Estimates from U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1999, Seat Belt Use; 1994 and 1996 estimates from National Occupant Protection Use Survey—1996: Controlled Intersection Study. Research Note. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, August 1997.

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