The most important task of a parent or caregiver is to keep their children safe. Part of that responsibility is ensuring children are safely buckled up in the correct and properly installed car seats for their ages and sizes, whether they are riding with you or another family member. This choice could mean the difference between life, serious injury, or death for your children. Don’t think you know — know you know — that your children are safe and are in the right seats, and that they are being used correctly every time.

On July 1, 2011, Georgia’s Booster Seat Law, became effective requiring children under age 8 to be properly secured in an approved car seat or booster seat while riding in passenger vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks. The car/booster seat must be positioned in the back seat, be appropriate for the child’s weight and height, meet all federal standards, and be installed and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In response to this law, the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) developed a training program to ensure all of its State Troopers and Motor Carrier Compliance Officers become certified child passenger safety technicians. To date, DPS has 857 certified trooper and officers.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children 12 and younger. From 2012 to 2016, there were 3,268 children killed while riding in cars, pickups, vans, and SUVs. In 2016, fatalities among children 12 and under riding in passenger vehicles were up by 8 percent. We know that now — more than ever — is the time to make sure your child is in the right seat, buckled up, and is in the back seat 100-percent of the time if they are under 13.

That’s why events such as Child Passenger Safety Week, being held September 23-29, are so critical in helping parents and caregivers learn about proper car seat installation, and how to use car seats correctly. Technicians can also discuss car seat selection with parents, if parents have questions about transitioning their child to another type of seat.

No matter their age, your children rely on you to keep them safe. When traveling, the best ways to protect them are to place them in the right car seats for their ages and sizes, to install the seats correctly, and to ensure that the car seats fit properly in the back seat of your vehicle – every single time. Because the consequences of misused car seats can be disastrous, always take the time to read the car seat instructions and consult your vehicle manual. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly half of car seats are misused.

Research shows that when used correctly, car seats decrease the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in cars, and by 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively, for infants and toddlers in light trucks. Additionally, using the tether on a forward-facing car seat reduces the chances of injury in a crash.

According to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), 2016 Observational Seatbelt Survey results showed statewide usage at 99.3% in child safety restraint, however, rural Georgia was at 96.7% versus metro Atlanta at 99.8%. GOHS is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to set up regional coordinators across the state that will be focused on child passenger safety education within their local region.

As children grow and transition from one type of car seat to another, parents sometimes become less vigilant about ensuring that their children are properly buckled in the right seats for their ages and sizes. The latest data from NHTSA shows that when it comes to restraint use, more than one-third (35%) of the children who died in passenger vehicles in 2016 were not buckled up at all, with the majority of them being children between 8 and 12. In 2016, among children under 5, car seats saved an estimated 328 lives. A total of 370 children could have survived if they had been buckled up 100-percent of the time. Children need to be buckled in, and in the right kind of seat, whether it’s a child car seat, booster seat, or seat belt in the back seat—every trip, every time.

The highlight of Child Passenger Safety Week is National Seat Check Saturday on September 29. On this day, parents and caregivers can visit local inspection stations and car seat check events and have their children’s car seats inspected by Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians who can teach them how to install their car seats properly. Technicians can help parents and caregivers learn the correct installation method for their child’s car seat and help determine if their children are ready to move from rear-facing to forward-facing seats, from forward-facing seats to booster seats, or from booster seats to seat belts. The technicians can also show parents how to register their car seat with its manufacturer so that they’ll be notified in the case of recalls.

If you can’t make it to a National Seat Check Saturday event, you can still have your car seat checked at a Car Seat Inspection Station. To locate an inspection station in your area, go to nhtsa.gov/carseat, or download the free SaferCar app from iTunes or Google Play. The services these stations offer are available year-round, by appointment, and are free of charge.

Parents and caregivers can also visit nhtsa.gov/carseat to learn other tips on car seat safety, watch how-to videos, and sign up for car seat recall notifications. For more information about the Georgia booster seat law, visit Georgia Child Passenger Safety Headquarters on the GOHS website.