ATLANTA, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Motor vehicle crash deaths among U.S. children age 12 and younger dropped by 43 percent from 2002 to 2011, federal health officials say.
However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vital Signs report said during the same period, more than 9,000 children died in crashes. In 2011, 1-in-3 children who died in crashes were not wearing seat belts.
"No child should die in a motor vehicle crash because they were not properly buckled up and yet, sadly, it happens hundreds of times each year in the United States," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.
"Many of these tragedies are preventable when parents use age-and size-appropriate child restraints every time their child rides in a motor vehicle."
CDC researchers analyzed data from 2002 to 2011 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to determine the number and rate of motor-vehicle occupant deaths, and the percentage of child deaths among children ages 12 and younger who were not buckled up.
Research has shown using age- and size-appropriate child restraints -- car seats, booster seats and seat belts -- is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash, yet only 2-of-100 children live in states that require car seat or booster seat use for children age 8 and younger.
To help keep children safe on the road, the CDC suggests parents and caregivers:
-- Buckle children in car seats, booster seats and seat belts in the back seat on every trip, no matter how short.
-- Use a rear-facing car seat from birth to age 2 or when a child reaches the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
-- Use a forward-facing car seat from age 2 up to at least age 5 or when a child reaches the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
-- Use a booster seat from age 5 until seat belt fits properly.
-- Use a seat belt once it fits properly without a booster seat. Children no longer need to use a booster seat once seat belts fit them properly -- when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt lays across the chest, not the neck.
-- Install and use car seats according to the owner's manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
-- Buckle children age 12 and under in the back seat.