Advocates’ Statement on Child Passenger Safety Week and State Child Passenger Laws

  • September 18, 2017
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


September 18, 2017

Contact: Eric Naing, 202-408-171, cell: 217-493-8294,




 Three Children Are Killed Every Day on Average in Motor Vehicle Crashes, Still

Almost Every State Lacks Key Child Passenger Safety Laws

Advocates Urges State Elected Officials to Put Protecting Child Passengers

at the Top of Their Legislative Priorities and Enact Lifesaving Law

This Child Passenger Safety Week, more than 20 children will be killed and nearly 3,500 more will be injured in motor vehicle crashes (based on averages). Yet, nearly every state has dangerous loopholes in child occupant protection statutes. It is critical that children are protected by strong laws that keep them in the back seat restrained by a child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt, as appropriate for their age and size. Needless tragedies happening on our roads could be prevented if state legislatures enact these lifesaving laws.

Each year Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) publishes the Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws which rates all 50 states and D.C. on basic traffic safety laws. The Report highlights three critical elements of child passenger safety: keeping children in rear-facing child safety seats until age two, putting them in booster seats until they reach age eight and 57 inches in height, and requiring them to be buckled up once they have graduated out of safety seats. Only one state, Rhode Island, has all three optimal child passenger safety laws. It is time for all the other states and D.C. to take swift action and enact laws to protect child passengers.

Children age two and under are especially vulnerable and require special protection provided by a rear-facing child safety seat. Unfortunately, only eight states (CA, CT, NJ, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC) have enacted laws requiring infants and toddlers to remain rear facing through age two. Advocates commends the New York legislature for passing a rear-facing child safety seat bill (A. 8100/ S. 6532) this session, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign it expeditiously. Legislatures in Massachusetts and Washington have rear-facing child safety seat legislation pending, and Advocates calls upon these states to advance and enact these bills.

Advocates and other leading safety organizations support putting children age three to eight and under 57 inches in height in booster seats. This practice greatly reduces their chance of being killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash. Yet, only 11 states (GA, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, RI, TX, UT, WA, WV) have optimal primary enforcement booster seat laws as defined in the Roadmap Report. South Dakota is the only state without any booster seat law. Booster seat use has been shown to reduce a child’s risk of injury in a crash by nearly 60 percent. It is vital that state legislatures upgrade their booster seat laws to provide adequate protection for these children.

After children outgrow booster seats, they should be buckled up in the rear seats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they are unbelted than front seat passengers. Despite this, 31 states (AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, VT, VA, WV, WY) lack primary enforcement rear seat belt laws. Moreover, Congress in 2012 mandated that the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) issue a rule requiring that cars be equipped with rear seat belt reminders. This rule is woefully overdue and NHTSA should issue the final rule without further delay.

Though the hot months of summer are almost behind us, children remain at risk for vehicular heatstroke when unintentionally left behind in the back seat. Already this year, 39 children have died in hot cars – surpassing the annual average of 37. This can happen in temperatures as low as 60 degrees, and even the most loving, caring and responsible parents can make this deadly mistake. Advocates urges Congress to enact the bipartisan HOT CARS Act of 2017 (Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act, H.R. 2801/S. 1666) which would require vehicles to be equipped with an alert system to remind drivers about children in the backseat. Cars already have alert systems to remind the driver about headlights, doors and keys. This technology is available and should be standard on all vehicles to stop these preventable deaths.

Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for children. State laws ensuring proper child passenger protection will help prevent these tragic deaths and injuries. This Child Passenger Safety Week, we urge lawmakers to get into the driver’s seat and advance proven highway safety laws