Putting Parental Fears in Perspective

Kidnapping remains one of the top 3 fears of American parents despite its (thank God!) rarity.

One way to fight that outsized fear is to watch the video below. Then, if you’re wondering about the actual odds of your child being kidnapped by a stranger — or need to see the other odds of other childhood calamities (except disease) to put things in perspective — we’ve got a WHOLE LOT of stats below!

Video by Mike Kraus at MYLKmedia.

Note: It is hard to find stats that exactly match up with each other. One organization will study children age 0-13. Another, all kids under 17, etc.

Nonetheless, we’ve done our best to find some fascinating numbers for you. While we are not statisticians (feel free to comment below if you see something we got wrong), we find these numbers reassuring.

Bikes, Feet, Cars:


100 children die annually in bike related accidents, says Stanford Medicine.


Approximately 600 children die from pedestrian injuries/year says the Children’s Safety Network.

The number of child pedestrian fatalities per 100,000:

Age 1 to 4:  0.9

Age 5 to 9: 0.4

Ages 10 to 14: 0.4

Age 15 to 19: 1.2

The rate is 1.4 times higher in NON-METRO areas than METRO.

76% of the fatalities occur at NON INTERSECTIONS.

And 59% occur at night.


Unintentional motor vehicle traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for kids 0-19. The average rate is 4.4 out of 100,000 kids, from 2016-2019.

23 states were above that rate, 11 were AT that rate, and 16 states were below it, says the Children’s Safety Network.

715 children under age 13 died as car passengers in 2021, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

To see the trends in child car passenger, pedestrian and bicycle deaths from 1975 to the present, visit this graph. Good news: All those deaths have gone down tremendously!


About 140 children, most younger than school age, die from choking annually, says this study, in the National Library of Medicine.


About 100 children die from falls each year. Again, most are younger than school age, says Stanford Medicine.

The Top 10 Risks of Dying

Here is the list of risks to children, from Statista.

The Risk of a Child Being Kidnapped by a Stranger

The media like to report that “460,000 children go missing every year.” But that number does not represent “children who are kidnapped and given new names and enrolled in a new elementary school,” says University of Delaware Sociology & Criminal Justice Prof. Joel Best.

Instead, that number comes from a 2017 report by the Department of Justice on missing children. To qualify – we realize that’s a strange word — a person UNDER AGE 18 just had to be missing for more than an hour.

Why don’t the reporters ever mention THAT?

Anyway, the DOJ report used police data as well as results from a national survey that asked parents: Did your kids ever go missing? Yes, said some parents. For instance:

  • An 8-year-old got off at the wrong bus stop and his frantic parents called the cops.
  • A 10-year-old came home from the beach and went to bed – but her parents thought she was still outside.
  • A divorced mom violated a court order by taking her 9-year-old out of state.
  • A 17-year-old girl, pregnant, ran away.

So, of the 460,000 missing children, the report concluded (in a footnote), about 105 were “stereotypical kidnappings” – police-speak for abductions like you see on Law & Order. Most of those victims were teens. And 92% of them made it home safe.

Another, more recent DOJ study concluded that, “The data do not demonstrate any change in rates” from the earlier study.

So: The odds of a minor getting abducted by a stranger?

There are about 72 million kids 0-17 in America. And the number kidnapped by strangers is about 100. So the odds of being kidnapped are about 1 in 720,000 or closing in on 1 in a million.

Putting The Risk of Child Kidnapping in Perspective

One way to look at that number: The odds of having co-joined twins is 1 in 200,000 according to the University of Maryland’s Medical Center.

Other 1 in a million odds, according to this list from Berkeley, include:

Odds that one of the next 24 babies born in the U.S. will become President.

Odds that 20 coin tosses in a row will come up tails.

Odds that you will win the California State Powerball lotto if you buy 6 tickets a week for a year.

MORE Perspective You Want?

Okay, for even a little more perspective here’s the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s piece: “17 Things More Likely to Happen to You Than Winning the Lottery.”

These include:

Dying in a plane crash

Being canonized as a saint

Going to the E.R. with a pogo stick-related injury

Okay, Last Bit of Perspective. We Promise:

The risk of kids dying is going DOWN.

50 years ago the death rate was 6 children per 10,000 kids aged *1-19. Now it’s 2 per 10,000, says Today’s Parent.

And Now for YOUR OWN Risks!


From the National Safety Council, here’s a video of these odds. Note this list is from 2021, when Covid was peaking:

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2021
Cause of Death
Odds of Dying
Heart disease
1 in 6
1 in 7
1 in 10
All preventable causes of death
1 in 19
Chronic lower respiratory disease
1 in 31
1 in 58
Guns (all intents)
1 in 89
        Gun assault
1 in 208
        Accidental gun discharge
1 in 7,944
1 in 91
1 in 93
1 in 98
1 in 485
1 in 747
1 in 1,006
1 in 1,287
1 in 2,659
1 in 3,546
1 in 4,655
Electrocution, radiation, extreme temperatures, and pressure
1 in 13,176
1 in 20,098
Sharp objects
1 in 25,960
Hot surfaces and substances
1 in 45,908
Dog attack
1 in 53,843
Hornet, wasp, and bee stings
1 in 54,516
Too few deaths in 2021 to calculate odds
Railway passenger
Too few deaths in 2021 to calculate odds
Passenger on an airplane
Too few deaths in 2021 to calculate odds
Source: National Safety Council