Public Safety

Iowa ranks fourth in child death rates from car crashes

Cedar Rapids Fire Department Public Education Manager Nicky Stansell describes the desired tightness of a shoulder harne
Cedar Rapids Fire Department Public Education Manager Nicky Stansell describes the desired tightness of a shoulder harness during a car seat installation at the Central Fire Station in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. A common error parents make is not tightening the restraint fully. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Iowa has the fourth highest rate in the country for child deaths in vehicle crashes, a new report shows.

According to a report published by Safewise, an average of nearly 4 children per 100,000 child residents die in motor vehicle collisions each year in Iowa.

The national average, according to the report, is 2.02 child deaths per 100,000 children. The leading cause of these fatalities is improper use of seat belts or car seats, the report said.

The report looked at the most recent crash data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as child safety seat laws from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to determine which states had the highest and lowest numbers of children killed in car crashes.

Mississippi had the highest rate, with nearly six children killed per 100,000 annually. New Mexico came in second with a rate of 4.92, and North Dakota was third with a rate of 4.92.

New Hampshire and Rhode Island had the lowest rates with no children killed in car crashes, according to the report. New York followed with a rate of 0.67 child crash deaths per 100,000 child residents, followed by New Jersey with a rate of 0.74.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 3,268 children under the age of 13 were killed in car crashes between 2012 and 2016, and the numbers have steadily increased since 2014. Of those deaths, more than one-third of those children were not secured by a seat belt or in a car seat.


The report found that the top 10 states with the lowest child crash death rates impose an average fine of $106 for child safety seat law violations, while the 10 states with the highest rates imposed an average fine of $45.

Iowa State code classifies a child restraint violation as a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $100, but with court costs and fees, violators end up paying about $200. Iowa State Patrol spokesperson Sgt. Nathan Ludwig said troopers issued 573 citations for failure to secure a child in 2017 and 538 in 2016.

Finding the right car seat for a child’s age, height and weight is vital, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Rear-facing car seats are recommended for infants and toddlers up to 4 years old. Forward-facing car seats are designed for toddlers and preschoolers weighing up to 60 pounds. All children under the age of 13 should be seated in the back seat, according to the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau.

To secure children who have outgrown car seats, a belt-positioning booster seat is recommended. The booster can be used until the child about 12 years old or nearly 5 feet tall.

Iowa law requires rear-facing seats for infants under 20 pounds and safety seats or booster seats for children under 6 years old. Children ages 6 to 11 must be in a booster seat or secured by a seat belt.

“Car seats and boosters are one of the easiest ways to keep your child safe and, when installed correctly, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Among children under 5, car seats saved an estimated 328 lives in 2016 alone. An additional 370 more children could have survived if they had been properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.”

The Linn County Safe Kids coalition will check car seats to make sure they’re safe and provide tips on how to buckle kids during the winter. Call (319) 654-2221 or visit for more information.

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