Introduction: Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in children aged ≤ 2 years in the U.S. The American Academy of Pediatrics advised that children should remain in rear-facing child car seats to mitigate injury from the most common type of severe collision (frontal). Several states have passed laws following these recommendations.

Methods: In 2013 publicly available statutes and comprehensive motor vehicle fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database were used to investigate whether there is a relationship between motor vehicle crash fatality rates for children under 1 year of age and state laws regulating the direction of car seat placement. States with known rear-facing car seat laws in place were analyzed in a two-step approach in 2014. Simple fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles were calculated with 95% Poisson CIs. A negative binomial count model for infant deaths was calculated, with state fixed effects, adjusted for the exposure of vehicle miles in each state by year.

Results: Unadjusted models showed a protective mortality effect for rear-facing car seat laws, while adjusted models demonstrated no beneficial effect.

Implications: This preliminary study suggests that state rear-facing child restraint laws may be having an impact on infant motor vehicle mortality; however the current model is unable to determine their relative contribution given the overall decline in traffic mortality.