Facts + Statistics: Child safety

Causes of death from unintentional injuries among children differ significantly by age. For children under the age of 1 year, the most common cause of death was suffocation in 2015, the most recent year available. For children age 1 to 4 drowning was the most common cause of death followed closely by motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 9 and 10 to 14.

 

 
Top Five Causes of Children's Unintentional Injury Deaths by Age, 2015

 

Age group Rank Cause Number Percent of total deaths
Under 1 year        
  1 Suffocation 1,125 87.1%
  2 Motor vehicle crashes 64 5.0
  3 Drowning 30 2.3
  4 Fire/burn 22 1.7
  5 Natural/environment 12 0.9
1 to 4        
  1 Drowning 390 31.6
  2 Motor vehicle crashes 332 26.9
  3 Suffocation 131 10.6
  4 Fire/burn 100 8.1
  5 Pedestrian 75 6.1
5 to 9        
  1 Motor vehicle crashes 351 46.5
  2 Drowning 129 17.1
  3 Fire/burn 72 9.5
  4 Other land transportation 32 4.2
  5 Suffocation 31 4.1
10 to 14        
  1 Motor vehicle crashes 412 54.0
  2 Drowning 87 11.4
  3 Other land transportation 51 6.7
  4 Fire/burn 41 5.4
  5 Poisoning 36 4.7

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

 
Motor vehicle crash deaths

In the vast majority of youth motor vehicle fatalities, the child was a passenger in a vehicle; 20 percent were pedestrians; 3 percent were bicyclists. Crash deaths have declined dramatically since 1975 for all children under the age of 12, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

 
Passenger Vehicle Occupant Deaths And Rate Per Million Children Through Age 12, 1975-2015

  Less than one year One to three years Four to eight years Nine to 12 years
Year Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate
1975 3,152,345 190 60.3 9,333,943 395 42.3 17,579,867 451 25.7 15,785,149 348 22.00
1985 3,678,657 130 35.3 10,594,540 326 30.8 17,015,987 385 22.6 12,970,952 290 22.40
1995 3,813,169 153 40.1 11,668,778 346 29.7 19,309,487 484 25.1 15,129,050 356 23.50
2005 4,106,627 119 29.0 12,135,517 247 20.4 19,614,024 417 21.3 16,293,227 294 18.00
2006 4,130,153 115 27.8 12,265,881 247 20.1 19,809,458 375 18.9 16,101,416 276 17.10
2007 4,257,020 96 22.6 12,403,983 225 18.1 20,011,375 335 16.7 15,913,431 249 15.60
2008 4,313,132 78 18.1 12,568,765 163 13.0 20,289,522 269 13.3 15,758,360 189 12.00
2009 4,261,494 69 16.2 12,857,476 180 14.0 20,780,673 288 13.9 15,853,769 219 13.80
2010 3,944,153 59 15.0 12,194,039 178 14.6 20,263,474 256 12.6 16,541,552 160 9.70
2011 3,996,537 59 14.8 12,043,067 157 13.0 20,421,665 252 12.3 16,488,839 188 11.40
2012 3,943,077 54 13.7 11,943,920 191 16.0 20,523,946 237 11.5 16,461,629 159 9.70
2013 3,941,783 49 12.4 11,934,615 162 13.6 20,458,936 250 12.2 16,388,386 179 10.90
2014 3,948,350 47 11.9 11,925,085 135 11.3 20,416,182 249 12.2 16,376,512 173 10.60
2015 3,978,038 49 12.3 11,909,208 171 14.4 20,373,647 253 12.4 16,486,202 190 11.50

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

 
Motor Vehicle Deaths Per 100,000 Persons By Age, 2015

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

View Archived Graphs

 

 
Children Killed Or Injured in Vehicle Crashes By Age, 2015

Age group Killed Injured Total killed or injured
Under 5 years 373 49,000 49,000
5 to 9 353 61,000 61,000
10 to 15 603 88,000 89,000
16 to 20 3,114 297,000 300,000
All ages 35,092 2,443,000 2,478,000

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

 
Restraint use

Child safety seats have reduced the number of children’s deaths from motor vehicle crashes. The National Highway Traffic Administration says that the seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent for children under 1 year old and by 54 percent for toddlers age 1 to 4. Child safety seats or adult seat belts have saved an estimated 10,940 lives of children under the age of 5 in passenger vehicles from 1975 to 2015.

 

 
Restraint Use Among Fatally Injured Children In Passenger Vehicles By Age, 1985

 

    Under 1 year 1 to 3 4 to 8 9 to 12 Total
Unrestrained Number 85 230 267 223 805
  Percent 65% 71% 69% 77% 71%
Safety belt Number 2 18 41 21 82
  Percent 2% 6% 11% 7% 7%
Child safety seat Number 29 55 7 0 91
  Percent 22% 17% 2% 0% 8%
Total restrained Number 31 73 48 21 173
  Percent 24% 22% 12% 7% 15%
Unknown Number 14 23 70 46 153
  Percent 11% 7% 18% 16% 14%
Total Number 130 326 385 290 1,131
  Percent 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

 
Restraint Use Among Fatally Injured Children In Passenger Vehicles By Age, 2015

 

    Under 1 year 1 to 3 4 to 8 9 to 12 Total
Unrestrained Number 9 44 88 74 215
  Percent 18% 26% 35% 39% 32%
Safety belt Number 2 11 72 95 180
  Percent 4% 6% 28% 50% 27%
Child safety seat Number 32 100 69 2 203
  Percent 65% 58% 27% 1% 31%
Total restrained Number 34 111 141 97 383
  Percent 69% 65% 56% 51% 58%
Unknown Number 6 16 24 19 65
  Percent 12% 9% 9% 10% 10%
Total Number 49 171 253 190 663
  Percent 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

 
Recreation

Among children up to the age of 14, football was the most dangerous sport, causing almost 206,000 injuries in 2015.  Basketball and bicycle riding ranked second and third, causing 175,000 and 168,000 injuries, respectively.  Soccer and swimming round out the top five, with 106,000 and 97,000 injuries.

Concern is growing about the risks of sports-related concussions as lawsuits filed by injured professional football players have generated national headlines. The problem also affects thousands of young people who engage in a variety of sports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2012, an estimated 329,290 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in U.S. emergency departments for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or traumatic brain injury.

 

 
Top 10 Sports By Number of Injuries For Children Through the Age of 14, 2015

    Number of injuries (1) by age
Rank Sport or activity Younger than 5 5 to 14 Total to age 14
1 Football 990 204,795 205,785
2 Basketball 1,736 172,998 174,734
3 Bicycle riding 20,085 147,916 168,001
4 Soccer 2,064 104,167 106,231
5 Swimming (2) 18,089 79,312 97,401
6 Trampolines 16,636 68,323 84,959
7 Baseball 3,248 61,215 64,463
8 Exercise (3) 5,696 36,947 42,643
9 Skateboarding 1,150 40,488 41,638
10 Softball 203 31,311 31,514

(1) Treated in hospital emergency departments. Excludes skiing.
(2) Includes injuries associated with swimming, swimming pools, pool slides, diving or diving boards and swimming pool equipment.
(3) Includes exercise equipment and exercise activity.

Source: National Safety Council. (2017). Injury Facts®, 2017 Edition. Itasca, IL.

 

 
Pedalcyclists Killed And Fatality Rates, 2015 (1)

Age group Killed Population (000) Fatality rate per million population
Under 5 6 19,907 0.30
5 to 9 10 20,487 0.49
10 to 14 28 20,622 1.36
Children (14 and under) 44 61,016 0.72
15 to 19 47 21,109 2.23
20 to 24 51 22,739 2.24
25 to 29 45 22,462 2.00
30 to 34 52 21,676 2.40
35 to 39 44 20,375 2.16
40 to 44 63 20,215 3.12
45 to 49 79 20,854 3.79
50 to 54 99 22,334 4.43
55 to 59 108 21,808 4.95
60-64 78 19,070 4.09
65-69 50 16,067 3.11
70 to 74 26 11,483 2.26
75 to 79 14 8,124 1.72
80 and over 12 12,087 0.99
Seniors (65 and over) 102 47,761 2.14
Total (2) 817 321,419 2.54

(1) Includes riders of bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles powered by pedals, such as tricycles and unicycles.
(2) Includes pedalcyclists of unknown age.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Bureau of the Census.

View Archived Tables

 

 
Pedalcyclists Injured And Injury Rates, 2015 (1)

Age group Injured Population (000) Injury rate per million population
Under 5 (2) 19,907 (2)
5 to 9 1,000 20,487 57
10 to 14 4,000 20,622 201
Children (14 and under) 5,000 61,016 82
15 to 19 5,000 21,109 256
20 to 24 5,000 22,739 217
25 to 29 5,000 22,462 211
30 to 34 3,000 21,676 134
35 to 39 3,000 20,375 171
40 to 44 3,000 20,215 136
45 to 49 4,000 20,854 174
50 to 54 3,000 22,334 151
55 to 59 3,000 21,808 160
60-64 2,000 19,070 131
65-69 1,000 16,067 74
70 to 74 1,000 11,483 56
75 to 79 (2) 8,124 (2)
80 and over (2) 12,087 (2)
Seniors (65 and over) 2,000 47,761 42
Total (2) 45,000 321,419 140

(1) Includes riders of bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles powered by pedals, such as tricycles and unicycles.
(2) Less than 500 injured.

Note: Injured totals may not equal sum of components due to independent rounding.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Bureau of the Census.

View Archived Tables

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