Motor Vehicle Safety

Everyone Has a Role in Making Our Roads Safer

No one wakes up thinking they will lose a loved one in a car crash that day. But every day about 100 people die in crashes and more than 1,000 suffer life-changing injuries.

Motor vehicle crashes are the Number 1 cause of death for children and young adults ages 5 to 24, and the Number 2 cause of death for adults 25 and older and for toddlers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Crashes also are the Number 1 cause of workplace fatalities.

Overwhelmingly, these deaths are preventable, and you can help change these statistics.

The National Safety Council has a message for every driver: Slow down, stop using your phone while driving, make good choices, buckle up and watch out for children. It will save lives. And remember, you're setting an example for your own kids.

One Call Can Change Everything

Many distractions exist while driving, but cell phone use tops the list. With some state laws focused on handheld bans and car makers putting hands-free technology in vehicles, many drivers assume hands-free cell phone use is safe. It's not. There is no safe way to use a cell phone and drive.

About one-quarter, or 1.3 million crashes a year, can be attributed to using phones. NSC advocates for stronger laws, helps employers assess their cell phone policies and provides a free cell phone policy kit, evaluates research and educates the public to change driver behavior.

Don't Drive While Impaired

Driving under the influence is a deadly proposition. Consuming alcohol, prescription medication, over-the-counter or illegal drugs greatly increases the chance of injury or death for you, your family members and others on the road. Impaired drivers face prosecution, legal costs and fines.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2012, about one-third of all fatal crashes involved alcohol, and more than 10,000 people lost their lives (Injury Facts 2015). Almost 4,000 drivers were killed in crashes while under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. Due to under-reporting, this number actually may be higher.

The best solution is for drivers to always be sober. If you plan to drink outside the home, decide in advance how you will get home with a sober driver. Impairment starts with the first drink.

Seat Belts Save Lives

Worn properly, seat belts are your best protection against injury in a crash. That's why 49 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring people riding in cars to wear seat belts. Only New Hampshire lacks a seat belt law.

More than 90% of Americans wear seat belts, and the few who don't are vulnerable. More than half of vehicle occupants killed in 2012 were not wearing one (Injury Facts 2015). For 16- to 24-year-olds, seat belt use is significantly lower than other age groups. Unfortunately, teens and young adults also have a higher risk of a crash due to driver inexperience and impaired driving. For information about teens and seat belts, visit

Air bags also help reduce injury in crashes, but only when used with seat belts. In addition, due to the force of air bags in a crash, children should ride in the back seat of a vehicle until they are at least 13 years old.

Secure Children Safely

The best way to protect children in the car is to put them in the right seat at the right time, and use it the right way. Restraint use among young children often depends on the driver's seat belt use. When the driver is buckled, children are restrained 95% of the time. When the driver is unbuckled, children are restrained 67% of the time, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.

Car seats reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% compared to children in seat belts, alone. Booster seats reduce the risk of non-fatal injuries by 45% among 4- to 8-year-olds, according to AAA. However, child restraints often are used incorrectly.

Nationally certified child passenger safety technicians are available to assist parents and caregivers with properly installing child restraints and securing children correctly.

Slow Down

Speeding was a factor in almost a third of fatal crashes in 2012, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. People often believe speeding is a problem only on highways. However, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding is higher on minor roads, such as neighborhood streets. Traffic-calming engineering changes and speed enforcement cameras can help reduce speeding in your local area.

Be Aware of Kids

Children under age 4 are especially vulnerable to getting run over in a driveway. This happens most often by a parent who backs over a child standing or playing near the vehicle. Drivers should always walk completely around a vehicle to be sure small children are not present before backing up or pulling forward. Mirrors and rear-view cameras won't always show children near the car.

Kids also can get trapped in the trunk, strangled by seat belts or hurt by power windows. Cars should always be locked so children cannot play inside.

Don't Forget Your Precious Cargo in the Back Seat

During the spring and summer, children increasingly are getting locked in cars and dying of heatstroke. Even in 70-degree weather, cars can reach life-threatening temperatures for children and pets in just minutes. Leaving a window open a crack will not help.

Always keep vehicles locked so children cannot get into the car alone. And, since most cases of heatstroke happen when a parent forgets a child in the back seat, put something you need back there with the child, such as a purse or laptop.

Older Drivers May Need Additional Help

According to Injury Facts 2014, the risk of a crash increases for drivers older than 75. Check out resources from NHTSA to determine if driving is the best option for older loved ones. You will find advice on modifying cars for older drivers and those with physical challenges. NHTSA also has advice on how to talk with older drivers and medical conditions that can affect driving. You may decide that public transportation is the best option.

*Information from the National Safety Council