Mom and baby on the driver's seat

There have been some heartening advances in automobile safety reported this year, but that doesn’t mean it is time to get complacent. Car accidents are still the leading cause of death among children. Though the number of parents putting their children in child safety seats is rising, the U.S. Department of Transportation says nearly 73 percent of the seats are being improperly used thus endangering children’s lives.

Here’s how to make sure you are using your child safety seats properly:

The first step is for parents to determine the correct safety seat for their children depending on the youngster’s age and/or weight. The seats should correspond to the following advisories. Before children are one-year-old or weigh 20 pounds, they should be fitted in a rear-facing seat with a five-point harness system to hold them securely in the seat. Once children reach the age of one or the weight of 20 pounds, they can be switched to a convertible forward-facing safety seat, also with a five-point safety harness.

By age four or at 40 pounds, most states require that parents restrain their children in belt-positioning booster seats with both lap and shoulder belts. It’s a good idea to keep your child using a booster until age eight or 80 pounds, when he or she is usually ready for traditional seatbelts.

Until a child is 12 years old, experts recommend that they ride in the rear seat. Once you’ve established the right car seat and its positioning, read the instruction manuals to be sure your safety seat is properly installed. If you still have questions, contact your local police department to be certain your child’s ride is as safe as possible.

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