A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found ensuring children under 15 are properly restrained—or wearing seat belts at all—could save about 232 lives every year. Researchers found 20% of children who died in fatal car crashes between 2010 and 2014 weren't buckled in or were improperly restrained, NPR reports. Of the more than 18,000 children involved in fatal car crashes in those years, 15.9% died. The biggest factor in those deaths was whether the children were properly restrained. Other factors included rural roads, which increased the likelihood a child would die in a car crash, and red light cameras, which decreased that likelihood.
The study found child fatality rates varied widely by state, which makes sense as seat belt laws, public information on car seats, rural roads, and the use of red light cameras also vary widely by state. More than half of all children who died in a car crash lived in the South. The highest rates of death were in Mississippi, Wyoming, Alabama, Montana, and Virginia, CBS News reports. The lowest were in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Rhode Island. In Mississippi, 38% of children who died in a fatal car crash weren't restrained properly or at all. The study's authors advocate for stronger seat belt laws and better public information—potentially at the federal level—to protect children in car crashes.