Car seats are designed to keep a child safe on the road however, many children are injured or killed due to the families inability to install the seat correctly.

To comply with state law parents of small children must have car seats installed in their vehicle when traveling or face serious consequences. While many children are seated in a car seat most of the seats are installed improperly causing a dangerous and potential fatal accident for the child and heartache for the family.

Car seats remain a safety problem due to the families inability to install them correctly.

A car seat check was held at the San Diego Fire Station on Tuesday, Nov. 15 to educate parents on the correct way to install their child's car seat. The event was sponsored by the Texas A7M AgriLife Extension Service Passenger Safety Project in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the San Diego and Alice Fire Departments.

“We wanted to educate parents on the importance of a properly installed car seat and restrained child,” San Diego Assistant Fire Chief Juan Soliz said. “So many times we are called out to an accident scene with children involved. These children aren't always in car seats and some children are strapped in their seats but still unsafe. As a parent it gets hard to see children injured when they were in the seat designed to protect them.”

According to Safe Ride 4 Kids, all states had a car seat law by 1985 however, in 1987 only 80 percent of children actually used a car seat. The first car seat was invented in 1921, but it was until 1962 that a man in England designed car seats with the intention of protecting children during car accidents.

According to Soliz, some common mistakes parents make include car seats that are too loose, infant seat that is facing forward, retainer clip used incorrectly or not at all, and car seats that have been recalled or expired.

“Parents are putting children in face-forward car seats too soon,” said Bev Kellner, Program Manager, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Passenger Safety. “Rear-facing seats available at retail stores can accommodate a child up to the age of 5 depending on the seat.”

Since 1999, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Passenger Safety Project has overseen the inspection of more than 15,000 child safety seats with a 99 percent rate of misuse.

According to Kellner, during the November event 14 child safety seat inspections were conducted, no child arrived correctly restrained, eight new seats issued and five children arrived incorrectly in seat belts or totally unrestrained.

These economic benefits are an estimated $2,159 per child age 0 to 4 and $2,606 per child age 4 to 7 for new seats distributed, and $622 per child for seat misuse corrected with an assumed 75 percent continued use. Based on this formula, the total economic impact for the 14 inspections at the event was $16,519.

“(We) were glad that to have an opportunity to help families in in your community with best practice education on car seats at the event,” Kellner said. “It was evident that the families were appreciative of the education they received from the technicians.”

As of Sept. 2009, Texas law requires children under the age of 8 or under 4 feet 9 inches to be restrained in a car seat suitable for the age, height and weight.. Children should not be moved to a booster seat until they are 4 years old, 40 pounds or more, and are mature enough to sit still for the entire car ride. Children, especially infants, should be in a rear-facing seat as long as possible.

“The proper use of child safety seats reduces the risk of injury and death, leading to reduced medical costs, avoidance of lost future earnings, and improved quality of life,” Kellner stated.

DPS along with the Alice and San Diego Fire Departments have certified technicians who attended a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration course and can be of assistance if families are concerned.

Due to economic hardships, families have turned to social media sites such as Trash-to-Treasure, yard sales and hand me downs to acquire car seats.

Alice Fire Marshall Patrick Thomas highly encourages families not to resort to a used car seat for the safety of their child.

“I understand the popularity of this sites but when buying a car seat it's best to be the original owner. When families purchase a used car seat they won't know the crash history, the expiration date or if the seat has been recalled,” Thomas stated. “While the cost of a new seat may be pricey the best practice is to get a new one.”

According to Thomas, If a family can't afford to purchase a new car seat or they have a question about the seat they can go to a local fire department..

“Fire Departments, through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, can provide families with a seat at no cost. If you own a seat not suited for your child, expired or recalled the department can trade you for your existing seat. The new one will than be installed correctly,” he said. “All old car seats are destroyed.”