Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. SD 2.3 Seat belt use

04/01/1997

In 1993, motor vehicle deaths were the leading cause of injury-related deaths for youth ages 15-19, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all teenage injury deaths. Motor vehicle deaths are also the leading cause of death for younger children.12 Consistent use of seat belts and car safety seats dramatically lessens the risk of injury or death in a motor vehicle accident. Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 1993, 55 percent of all children under age five who were killed while occupants of a motor vehicle were not protected by seat belts or child safety seats.13

Overall, regular seat belt or car safety seat use among children increased between 1985 and 1990. This increase has been particularly dramatic among children ages 5 and older (see Table SD 2.3.A). For example, among children ages 5-9, reported rates of regular seat belt use increased from 49 percent to 76 percent.

Differences by Age. In both 1985 and 1990, younger children were more likely than older children to routinely wear a seat belt or be in a child safety seat. In 1990, 87 percent of 1-4 year old children were reported to have used seat belts (or a child safety seat) all or most of the time, compared to 68 percent of 15-17 year olds (see Figure SD 2.3). However, as mentioned above, the greatest increases in seat belt usage occurred among children ages 5-17. In fact, the older the age group, the greater the increase in the percentage who regularly wore their seat belts.

Differences by Race. Among children ages 0-4, the percentage of white and black children who are regularly in car safety seats (or, for some of the older or larger preschoolers, wearing seat belts) has increased. Between 1985 and 1990, the percentage of white children in this age group who were in car safety seats or seat belts rose from 84 percent to 88 percent. Among black children in this age group, the percentage increased from 67 to 79 percent. The percentage of Hispanic children ages 0-4 who regularly used a seat belt or car safety seat was fairly steady at 73 and 71 percent in 1985 and 1990, respectively. For children ages 5-17, however, percentages for all three races rose considerably between 1985 and 1990 (see Table SD 2.3.A).

The 1985 and 1990 data described above and presented in Table SD 2.3.A. are based on parent and self reports; data for 1994, presented in Table SD 2.3.B, are based on observations and thus cannot be directly compared to the earlier data. However, the observational results suggest that the percentages of infants (under age 1) and toddlers (ages 1-4) who are in car safety seats or are wearing seat belts is much lower than the percentages suggested from the self reports in 1985 and 1990.
 

Figure SD 2.3  
Percentage of Children and Youth Who Are Reported to Have Worn Seat Belts All or Most of the Time, by Age: 1990 

SD2_3.GIF

Source: National Health Interview Survey data as published in Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10: No. 163. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention United States, 1995.
 
 

Table SD 2.3.A  
Percentage of Children and Youth Who Are Reported to Have Worn Seat Belts All or Most of the Time: 1985 and 1990

           
     
1985
1990
 
     
 
 
 
Children by Age:
    < 1 year
92
93
 
    Ages 1-4
82
87
 
    Ages 5-9
49
76
 
    Ages 10-14
33
67
 
    Ages 15-17
31
68
 
           
Race/Ethnicity by Age:
  White 
    Ages 0-4
84
88
 
    Ages 5-17
40
73
 
  Black
    Ages 0-4
67
79
 
    Ages 5-17
32
59
 
  Hispanic
    Ages 0-4
73
71
 
    Ages 5-17
36
62
 
           
Source: National Health Interview Survey data as published in Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10: No. 185. "Health Promotion and Disease Prevention United States, 1990"; and Series 10: No. 163. "Health Promotion and Disease Prevention United States, 1995."

 
 

Table SD 2.3.B  
Percentage of Children and Youth Who Are Observed to Have Worn Seat Belts or Been Placed in Child Safety Seats, by Age:a 1994

     
  Infant (< 1 year)b: 88
  Toddler (1-4 years)c: 61
  Youth (5-15 years): 58
  Young adult (16-24 years): 53
     
     
     
aAge group is based on the best judgement of the observers in the National Occupant  
Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) Controlled Intersection Study.  
bUse of restraints for infants refers to child safety seats.  
cUse of restraints for toddlers refers to safety belts or child safety seats.  

Source: Research Note. "National Occupant Protection Use Survey: Controlled Intersection Study." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, May 1, 1995.

 

12 National Center for Health Statistics (1996). 1993 Detail Mortality File. Unpublished data.

13 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1994. Traffic Safety Facts 1993. DOT HS 808 169. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation.
 
 

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