Safety Tips

Injury Prevention: Motor Vehicle Safety

Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Over 180,000 deaths occur from injury each year — 1 person every 3 minutes.[1] More than 2.5 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2015.[2] The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime cost of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers was $70 billion in 2005.[3] Many of these injuries can be prevented and their consequences reduced. We know prevention works. Below are just a few facts and tips on how you and your loved ones can stay safe on the road.

Seat Belts

Use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short. This sets a good example for other passengers.

  • People not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash.[4]
  • The use of seat belts and child safety seats saved nearly 14,000 lives in 2015.[5]
  • Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50%.[6]
  • Air bags provide added protection but are not a substitute for seat belts. Air bags plus seat belts provide the greatest protection for adults.[7]

Wear your seat belt properly:

  • Adjust the shoulder harness to fit snugly across your shoulder and chest with minimal, if any, slack.[8]
  • Adjust the lap belt to fit snugly and low across your hips after fastening.[8]

Child Passengers

Make sure children are properly buckled up in a seat belt, booster seat, or car seat, whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.

  • Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants, and by 54% for toddlers, ages 1 to 4 years.[9]
  • Place children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest area in the vehicle.[10]

Teen Drivers

As a parent, know your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws so you can help enforce the laws and keep your teen driver safe.

  • GDL systems are designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.
  • Research suggests that the most comprehensive GDL programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.[11]

Keep an open dialogue with your teen and discuss your rules. Use a Parent-Teen Driving Contract to outline both of your expectations and set consequences if they are not followed.

  • Research has shown that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road”, new drivers report lower rates of risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.[12]

Older Drivers

  • Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.
  • Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Drive during daylight and in good weather.
  • Plan the safest route before you drive. Look for:
    • Well-lit streets
    • Intersections with left turn arrows
    • Easy parking
  • Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit.

Distracted Drivers

  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Put your phone in the trunk of your car.
  • Never text and drive.

Additional Resources


  1. NCIPC: Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)
  2. CDC. WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. Available at
  3. Naumann RB, Dellinger AM, Zaloshnja E, Lawrence BA, Miller TR. Incidence and total lifetime costs of motor vehicle-related fatal and nonfatal injury by road user type, United States, 2005. Traffic Inj Prev 2010;11:353-60.
  4. CDC. Seat Belt Policy Impact Brief. Available from:
  5. Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute. Fatality Facts 2010: Alcohol. [accessed 2012 June 6]. Available from:
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Final regulatory impact analysis amendment to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208. Passenger car front seat occupant protection. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 1984. Publication no. DOT-HS-806-572. Available at Accessed December 12, 2012.
  7. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Third report to Congress: effectiveness of occupant protection systems and their use. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 1996. Available at Accessed December 12, 2012.
  8. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Proper Seat Belt Use. Available from:
  9. Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts 2008: Children. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2009.
  10. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Child passenger safety. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):788-93.
  11. Baker SP, Chen L, Li G. Nationwide review of graduated driver licensing. Washington (DC): AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; 2007.
  12. CDC. Parents Are The Key. Available from: