Car Crash Stats: States With the Highest (and Lowest) Child Fatality Rates

Written by | Updated November 29, 2018
mother securing child in car seat

Did you know that the leading cause of death for children ages 13 and under is due to car crashes? Most of these fatalities are caused by improper seat belt or car seat use. According to the US Department of Transportation, “from 2012 to 2016, there were 3,268 children under 13 killed while riding in passenger vehicles, and these tragic figures have been increasing steadily since 2014. More than one-third of those children were not buckled at all.”4  The vast majority of car crash fatalities are preventable, and our actions can save children’s lives.

The best way to protect your child is to make sure they are buckled in for every car ride. It’s also crucial to use the correct car seat for your child’s age, height, and weight.

Most and Least Car Crash Fatalities Involving Children: Top 5 States

Child Car Crash Fatalities Infographic

Most Child Car Crash Fatalities: Top 10 States

Rank State Child Population Child Fatalities per 100,000 % of Total Fatalities
1 Mississippi 595,739 5.88 5.10%
2 New Mexico 406,557 4.92 5.00%
3 North Dakota 150,503 3.99 5.30%
4 Iowa 607,020 3.95 5.90%
5 South Dakota 179,688 3.90 6.00%
6 Alabama 902,563 3.77 3.30%
7 Montana 189,864 3.69 3.70%
8 Oklahoma 803,241 3.61 4.20%
9 Louisiana 926,601 3.45 4.20%
10 Wyoming 116,796 3.42 3.60%

Least Child Car Crash Fatalities: Top 10 States

Rank State Child Population Child Fatalities per 100,000 % of Total Fatalities
1 New Hampshire 211,343 0 0
2 Rhode Island 170,395 0 0
3 New York 3,456,331 0.67 2.20%
4 New Jersey 1,631,199 0.74 2.00%
5 Hawaii 260,336 0.77 1.70%
6 Massachusetts 1,127,415 0.80 2.30%
7 Vermont 96,558 1.04 1.60%
8 Illinois 2,412,416 1.04 2.30%
9 Nevada 564,061 1.06 1.80%
10 Indiana 1,300,309 1.08 1.70%


  • New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii have child car crash fatality rates less than half the US average of 2.02 fatalities per 100,00 children.
  • Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Iowa, and South Dakota have child fatality rates roughly twice as high as the US average of 2.02.
  • New England is the safest region for driving with child passengers; of the top ten states with the fewest child fatalities, 60% are in this region.
  • Of the top ten states with the most child fatalities, Southern states are over-represented at 40%. Western and Midwestern states are split evenly at 30%.
  • The top ten safest states for child passengers have an average fine of $106 for child safety seat law violations.The ten states with the most fatalities have an average fine of only $45.
  • Based on an average of the top ten safest states, only 1.4% of fatal car crashes involve children. In the ten states with the most child passenger fatalities, 4.6% of all fatal car crashes involve children.
  • Utah (7.5%), South Dakota (6%) and Iowa (5.9%) have the highest percentages of fatal car crashes involving children compared to total car crash fatalities. 

How to Keep Children Safe

  • Make sure you have the right car seat based on your child’s current height and weight.6
    • Rear-facing: Infants and toddlers. Stay in a rear-facing seat as long as the seat limits allow; up to 4 years old.5
    • Forward-facing: Toddlers and preschoolers. Stay in a forward facing car seat up to the seat’s weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate up to 60 lbs. Remember to use with both lower anchors and tether or seat belt and tether.
    • Belt-positioning booster seat: School-aged children; up to 4 ft. 9 in. and aged 8–12.  
    • Seat belt: Once they outgrow a booster seat, children should always use a lap and shoulder belt. All children aged 13 and younger should ride in the back seat.
  • Ensure the car seat is properly installed and use it for every car trip.
  • Register the car seat with the manufacturer so that you stay informed of any safety updates or recall information.
  • Read the instructions! Every seat is different, so make sure you read and follow the instructions for the model you have.
  • Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of a passenger air bag seat.
  • If you have a car seat in your vehicle, visit a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your community to double-check that it’s properly installed. Go here to find a car seat inspection station near you.
  • Get certified to be a licensed car seat technician. Help educate others about proper car seat installation.


SafeWise analysts evaluated the most recent car crash data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) and child safety seat laws from the Insurance Institute Highway Safety (IIHS) to determine which states in the country had the highest and lowest numbers of child car crash fatalities per 100,000 child population.


1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Traffic Safety Facts: 2016 Data
2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, “Safety Belts
3. Traffic Safety Marketing, “Child Passenger Safety Week
4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Child Passenger Safety Week
5. AAP News and Journals Gateway, “New Child Passenger Safety Seat Guidance Advises Kids to Ride Rear-Facing as Long as Possible; Drops Age Criterion
6., “Car Seats: Information for Families”

Written by SafeWise Team

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