Safety In and Around Cars

Safe Kids Buckle Up addresses the three ways children can be injured in non-traffic related incidents in and around cars. While the majority of deaths to children involving motor vehicles are traffic related, approximately ten percent of deaths are reported as non-traffic related.

Non-traffic related deaths include children killed in driveways, parking lots and on sidewalks, as well as other off-road locations. They are generally pedestrians but may also be on bikes or other wheeled toys or vehicles.


You could save a child's life by taking a five second walk around your car before you get in.

Many of these preventable injuries and deaths occur in driveways or parking lots when drivers do not see children near their vehicles - often, these drivers are loving family members or friends.

Follow three easy tips to help keep children safer around cars:

Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers are urged to firmly hold the hand of children when in driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks.


Drivers, even those without children of their own, are cautioned to do a safety check to look for children walking or playing around cars.
 Drivers should walk all the way around a parked vehicle to check for kids, toys and pets before entering their car and starting the motor.

More About Spot the Tot

Spot the Tot is a nationwide expansion of the successful program of the same name created by Safe Kids Utah.

The program teaches parents, drivers, caregivers and children new safety tips to increase awareness about small children sharing the same space as vehicles. It is designed to increase awareness and reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities that occur in driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks.

This is the newest initiative of Safe Kids Buckle Up, which has focused on promoting safety for children in cars for more than 10 years.

Facts from Safe Kids Worldwide (

Motor Vehicle Safety Fact Sheet


Motor vehicle collisions (MVC) are the number one cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 19 years.


In 2016,3,183children1 died as occupants of motor vehicles during collisions, at a rate of 3.88 per 100,000 children. Between 1994 and 2016, there has been a 51 percent decrease in the number of MVC occupant deaths and a 55 percent reduction in the fatality rate. However, both the annual number and rate have been increasing since 2013. Between 2013 and 2016, there has been an 11 percent increase in both the number and rate of deaths.

Approximately 2,500 children per year ages 1-14 reported to emergency rooms and an average of 229 children per year died from motor vehicle backover injuries in the United States from 2001-2003. Close to half of children injured in these incidents were ages 1-4.


While cars are made to keep people safe, kids should always be with an adult when in or around one.

Even with a window slightly open, on a typically sunny, summer day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach potentially deadly levels within minutes. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. This could cause permanent injury or even death.

Teach children that cars are not a play area. Children can accidentally put the car into gear, release the emergency brake causing the car to roll, or leave the car without the driver's knowledge.

Restrain all children in the appropriate child restraint to prevent them from accidentally activating power windows that can cause injury.

Young children should not have the opportunity to get in or out of a car without the assistance of an adult, especially in a parking lot or street. Children are unaware of hazards around them.


  • Never leave a child alone in a vehicle.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach.
  • Watch children around cars, particularly when loading or unloading.
  • Check to ensure that all children leave the vehicle with you when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.
  • Make sure that all children are restrained in the proper child restraint to prevent access to power windows. Remind older children that are over 80-100 pounds and 4'9" to stay properly seated in the safety belt. Children under that height and weight should be in a car seat with a harness or a booster seat. Children of any age should not have unsupervised access to power windows.


An average 33 children died per year from 1998-2004 from heat stroke after being left unattended in a vehicle.

On days when ambient temperatures exceeded 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the internal temperatures of the vehicle quickly reached 134 to 154 degrees Fahrenheit.



Safe Kids Buckle Up reminds parents, caregivers, and children that vehicles are not play areas. This includes trunks, which may seem harmless, but can result in accidental entrapment.

All cars made after 2001 are equipped with a trunk handle release in case of accidental entrapment. Parents and caregivers should first look in trunks if missing children cannot be found quickly.

Children should be taught that trunks are not safe places to play; they are for storage and should be used under adult supervision only.
 In an emergency, cars built after 2001 are built with a glow-in-the-dark trunk release handle.

Many older care can be retrofitted with a trunk release handle by the dealership.


  • Store keys and remote entry devices away from children.
  • Check trunks first for missing children.
  • Show children the glow-in-the-dark trunk handle release. When they are strong enough, teach them how to use it properly.
  • Teach children that trunks are for cargo - not for people or pets.


From 2007 to 2011, an average of 37 children ages 14 years and under died per year in MVCs that did not occur on public roadways, but on private land such as driveways and parking lots.

In 2017, 4children, ranging in age from 5 days to 14 years, died from heatstroke or suspected heatstroke while left in cars.

An estimated 267 deaths per year are caused when a vehicle backs up onto a person and 31 percent of these deaths are children under 5 years of age.

Non-Fatal Injuries

In 2015, there were more than 427,000 visits to Emergency Departments by children due to motor vehicle collisions.

Based on data collected in 2001-2012, an estimated 95,000 children ages 14 and under are seen in emergency rooms for not-in-traffic crash injuries each year.

Risk Factors

In 2016, teenagers ages 14-19 years accounted for 74 percent of MVC fatalities among children and died at more than 6 times the rate of children under 14 (9.29 per 100,000 teens versus 1.47 per 100,000 children 0 to 13 years).

Boyare more likely to suffer fatal MVC injuries than girls; 61 percent of fatalities are among boys and 39 percent among girls.

Fatality rates are highest among American-Indian and Alaska Native children and lowest among Asian children.

While only 21 percent of the population lives in rural areas, this is where 60 percent of MVC fatalities occurred in 2016.

For the 2,839 child fatalities where restrained use was known and applicable in 2016, 44 percent were unrestrained, and teens were less likely to be restrained than those under 14 years. The proportions of unrestrained fatalities by age group were 4percent for teens, 4percent for children ages 9 to 13 years, and 26 percent for children under 9 years.


Vehicle safety technologies first introduced in 1956, such as seat belts, air bags and electronic stability control, are responsible for 613,501 lives saved in motor vehicle collisions from 1960 to 2012.

It is estimated that in 2015 seat belts saved the lives of 13,941 children ages 5 and older, while child restraint systems were responsible for saving another 266 children under age 5.