The New Mexico State Legislature passed a child restraint law applicable to children less than 5 years of age that became effective in June 1983. To evaluate the effectiveness of this law, we analyzed traffic accident data for New Mexico from January 1981 through September 1984. During this period, there were 20,972 children younger than 5 years of age in motor vehicle accidents. Restraint usage increased for this age group from a low of about 10% in 1981 to more than 40% in 1984 (P < 10-6). Unrestrained children younger than 5 years of age were five times more likely to be killed and two times more likely to be injured than restrained children. Analysis of motor vehicle accident fatality and injury rates pre- and postlaw revealed a 33% reduction in motor vehicle accident fatality rates and a 12.6% reduction in nonfatal injury rates for children younger than 5 years. We conclude that (1) child restraint devices are effective in reducing motor vehicle accident fatalities and injuries in young children and (2) the child restraint law has been effective in increasing child restraint usage and in reducing childhood death and injury in New Mexico.

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